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Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Tea Time!

The rains have returned to Vancouver, which means it’s time to settle in with a cup of tea and a good book! I am currently drinking out of one of my late grandmother’s lovely teacups, using an adorable pink teapot I found at a thrift shop in Halifax, and reading the very moving and reflective The Place of Scraps by Jordan Abel—possibly the most readable book of poetry I’ve ever committed to. Not to mention that it is very pleasing to the eye and to the touch.

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Welcome to my tea cupboard.

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As summer turns to fall, I always want jasmine green tea. As winter sets in I return to black; I have particular fondnesses for Cream of Earl Grey and Lapsang Souchong, as well as the delicious green-black blend with the unbeatable name, Buckingham Palace Garden Party. I have a selection of tisanes (herbal teas) for when it gets too late at night for caffeine, and honey and rose water and all sorts of things to add to the pot for extra aroma.

Three teapots, can you believe it? That beautiful blue iron-cast pot was a wedding gift, as was the brown ceramic pot with the little brown cups (stacked behind). The polka-dot travel mug is a winter favourite of mine, good for the morning commute. The only thing not pictured below is my tea ducky, which lives at the office these days.

Not an artsy post per se, this time. Just sharing a thing I like.

Enjoy your next cuppa!

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Happy holidays!

This week I had a delightful Christmas dinner with my grandmother in her care home. All of her children and most of her grandchildren were present, which was lovely. Her husband was not, as he traveled to the Grey Havens about a year ago, but we were all thinking of him.

The centerpiece, brought out from grandma’s old house (where my parents now live), was this jolly church—straight from the 1970s—laid in sugar-cube bricks and pink icing mortar.

grandma-bremners-sugar-church

Grandma apparently followed a pattern in Good Housekeeping to make it, but the candle trees and carollers were her own additions. She also cut shiny wrapping paper to make “stained glass” windows. I’d also show you the door, and the back of the church, but… I forgot my camera that day and had to rely on my dad’s BlackBerry.

The sugar church is on its last legs, but we enjoyed it one last time.

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Thank you to Stephanie for writing about delicious, delicious jam and hilarious, hilarious puns.

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Hi, all, Stephanie here. I’m guest-posting because yesterday I made some strawberry jam, and Chloë asked me to write about it.

I think it was less because of the jam (I am no food blogger) and more because of how I used making jam as an excuse to make jam puns. Here’s an excerpt from the G-chat in which Chloë discovered the jam game:

me: I have to tell you about a fun pun word game I’m playing (basically by myself, but with input from others occasionally)

Chloë: giv’er

me: in June/July I have plans to make jam with my friend Beth. so for the labels I want to have movie/TV show/book taglines but replacing key words with the word “jam”. for example:

• Harry Potter and the Goblet of Jam
• When you play the game of jams, you win or you die
• May the jams be ever in your flavour
Chloë: yeah!
me: (that one’s a double)
Chloë: i like it!
me: i had one for the wire: “you come at the jam, you best not miss”
also “you cannot jam if you do not play”. turns out it’s really fun to replace words with “jam”
It was! It still is. (Also, Beth and multiple coworkers were playing the jam game too, so many of these puns aren’t actually ones I came up with. I had much help.)
Beth was instrumental in the jam-making, as she’s the one who actually bought the cookbook from which we got the recipe, and she bought a giant stockpot so we could do the water-bath step instead of just risking botulism, which was my initial instinct.
If it had been up to me, I probably would have spent months replacing words with “jam” and then buying a jar of jam at the store and calling it a day. Good thing I have friends who are motivated to complete projects.
Making jam was actually easier than I thought it would be.
The stage I was most worried about, the thickening stage, went just fine and filled my kitchen with steam and weird hot-fruit smell (I smelled like this for the rest of the day).
I was also kind of nervous about the jars sealing, because that is what makes the difference between jam you have to keep in your fridge and jam that can stay on the shelves for months at a time (an actual preserve rather than just some slushy strawberry stuff you stuck in a jar). There is an audible pop when the jars seal, and it has the potential to fill your heart with joy and also make you squeal in a way that will embarrass you immediately after you’ve done it.
The recipe we made was smaller than our brains’ capacities for thinking of jam puns, so we couldn’t use them all this time. That just means we’ll have to make more jam! The puns we used:
  • Clear Jam, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose (Friday Night Lights)
  • When You Play the Game of Jams, You Win or You Die (Game of Thrones, and by far the most threatening of the puns)
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkajam (Come on, you know this one)
  • One Jam to Rule Them All (Lord of the Rings)
  • Clever Jam (Jurassic Park)
  • You Come at the Jam, You Best Not Miss (The Wire)
  • Strawberry Jam, June 23, 2012 (This jar is for my parents, who would humour a jam pun but wouldn’t really get it)
Jam puns we’re saving for next time:
  • 2+2=Jam (1984)
  • The Empire Strikes Jam (This label had stick-figure Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker on it; I really wanted to use it)
  • Frankly, My Dear, I Don’t Give a Jam (Gone with the Wind)
  • May the Jams Be Ever In Your Flavour (The Hunger Games [The Hunger Jams?])
  • Fresh Jam of Bel-Air (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air)
  • Colours of the Jam (Pocahontas)
 And many more. Have any good ones? List them in the comments!
Credit for all these photos goes to Beth and her fancy Instagram iPhone. Beth is also the one who drew that fantastic and terrifying velociraptor.
If you want to make your own jam (I recommend it!) the recipe we used is the basic, pectin-free strawberry jam recipe in the book I linked to above. I recommend doing enough research to feel confident but not enough to freak out about botulism. Everything will be okay! I love Big Jam! (Okay, that’s another 1984 joke. I just love how dismal they are.)
Thanks for letting me take over your blog for a day, Chloë!

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“What can I do with this?”

Isn’t that always the question. A creative practice that I return to, again and again, is making something great out of… just something. Maybe it’s because I can’t bear to see anything go to waste, maybe it’s because I appreciate resourcefulness and innovation, or maybe I’m just too lazy to think of bigger ideas, but I usually begin a creative piece with one thing. For example: I write a poem because I couldn’t get a particularly juicy phrase out of my head all day; I get excited about a clothing item, and I build an outfit around it; I compose a melody because I woke up humming an appealing riff; or I invent a dish because I want to use (or use up) a certain ingredient.

Like tonight. I had one special ingredient with which to build a meal: fresh oregano. It was a gift from a friend with a garden—don’t you dig having friends with gardens? (Pun absolutely intended.)

My first creation for 30 Days of Creativity (1 day down, 29 to go…) was simple and small, but delish. And vegan. And fast. And I find it so satisfying when an entire nourishing meal fits into a single bowl. With toasted olive bread and a glass of homemade iced tea, it hit the spot.

Mmm… din dins…

Recipe: Brown some chopped onions on high heat. Then add an eggplant (cubed), chunks of red pepper, and a bit of water, and turn down the heat to medium-high. Add a handful of fresh oregano (or a couple spoonfuls of dried oregano) and some parsley and thyme. Garlic would be great in this as well. Simmer until it’s soft.

This is not a recipe blog or by any stretch of the imagination, nor do I really qualify as a foodie, but MAN this was some tasty art.

Do you do this one-item inspiration thing too? Tell me about it.

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I recently got myself hitched, as you may know, and in a number of ways our wedding was… unorthodox. One of these ways was our cake. We didn’t have a tiered wedding cake as per Western tradition. I didn’t feel attached to having a cake at all—I like to get my chocolate doses from more concentrated sources—but my shiny new husband loves crumb cake, so his dedicated mother baked ten of them. Our wedding guests chowed down on huge slices of it (with berries and cream) as they played board games and listened to a cello choir.

The visual component of our wedding cake, though, was an architectural masterpiece made from gingerbread, which we called The Gingerbread Fortress of Well-Being. We are Baha’is, as you also may know, and there’s a quotation from the Baha’i Writings that describes marriage as “a fortress for well-being” (more on that here); how encouraging is that! Robin and I wanted to share the analogy with our wedding guests somehow, and what better way to internalize a concept than by literally consuming it?

So now, documented for you here, is the construction adventure of our gingerbread fortress.

The Construction Process

Heather, my sister-in-law, revels in her architectural duties.

The whole project took about six people and four hours (not including the time it took for the icing to harden—and not including the people and ingenuity it took to maneuver the thing into a car and bring it to the wedding location). We began by inventorying the pieces and coming up with a basic design: a hexagon-shaped building with a dome on top.

I originally wanted to bake a huge batch of vegan gingerbread and cement icing, but time didn’t allow it. Luckily, the stores were still carrying marked-down Christmas supplies, so I bought three gingerbread house kits (for CHE

AP!). We used most of the included pieces (about 30, including structural pieces as well as decorative pieces, like trees), and we cut a few of them to suit our design. We also baked a few custom pieces (notably the large, flat roof) with a gingerbread dough mix. I felt a bit like a cheater using the kits and the mix, but the creativity it took to design and decorate the fortress made up for that in the end.

The Gingerbread Fortress was my brainchild, but the chief architect was my new sister-in-law, Heather. Our building team included Robin (my now-husband), my sisters Lydia and Veronica, and my BFF Samuel.

Robin, Heather, Veronica and Samuel begin to build!

All hands on deck!

Even my mother helped; we covered a painting of hers in aluminum foil to act as the base. Don’t worry; we didn’t ruin the painting, and it was still just a draft—we just needed the tough masonite!

Structural integrity was important because we wanted to make this thing BIG, and if it was going to be big it would have to hold itself up well. We used a multitude of gingerbread buttresses, inside and out, as well as two cardboard paper-towel rolls (one to hold up our custom-baked roof and another to hold up the drawbridge). Also we used a lot of cement icing.

Here's a clear view of the custom-baked roof. It was the right size and shape, but it sagged, so we cut the same shape from three cereal boxes and rested these underneath the dough like a plate.

We had to find something to hold up the roof from the inside so that it didn't sag. I cut a paper towel roll to the right height, and it did the trick.

Inside, a number of buttresses helped to prop up the big walls. Also, SECRET MESSAGE!

Here's another clear view from the top, before the roof and the dome were put on.

Here's a closer view of one of the buttresses and the moat.

The Decoration Process

As you can see, building and decorating happened simultaneously.

Dinosaurs manned the fortress and were heavily featured. Our formal wedding photos were taken in a natural history museum, so dinosaurs became a bit of a theme (we originally wanted to hold our ceremony there, but that’s another story…).

Hadrosaurus, Triceratops and Tyrannosaurus Rex come up the drawbridge.

Diplodocus guards one of the barracks tents.

Stegasaurus paces on the ledge of the ramparts.

Pteradactyl guards (or possibly steals?) eggs in a nest.

A difficult-to-identify dinosaur lounges in the moat with a beach ball.

Parasauralophus peeks out from an attic arch.

Aren’t you totally impressed by my dinosaur knowledge?

There were also gummy dinosaurs decorating the walls:

Heather made a number of lovely stained glass windows.

Take a look behind the bushes, through the barracks tent at General Diplodocus, then up toward the stained glass window, then to the left where stands… an all-powerful human being!

Also note the not-so-secret ingredient: creativity!

You thought I was going to say love, didn’t you.

The back of the fortress was covered in hearts. Aww!

Cake Toppers were not a priority in the overall wedding cake plan, but everything miraculously came together in the end. I found giant chocolate letters at the drug store one day (amazing, right?), and I made two gingerbread men versions of myself and Robin, one for each side of the fortress. My first name, last name, and gingerbread likeness are all in purple (traditionally my favorite colour), and Robin’s are in green (his fave). Special features of these gingerbread people include a mustache and beard carved from gumdrops and a specially mixed brown icing for hair colour.

From the front, you can see we two gingerbread people.

Gingerbread Chloë sits atop her side of the fortress.

Gingerbread Robin surveys the kingdom from his side.

Samuel may look like a slacker in the photos (he’s the guy talking on the phone), but he is responsible for the final touch of genius: the fact that our last names (Filson and Wilson) begin with the same letters as “Fortress of Well-Being”. Thus we were able to use the chocolate “F” and “W” in an awesome pseudo-acrostic title!

Filson & Wilson: A Fortress for Well-Being

The real final touch, though, was our awesome flag. We had a rubber stamp made and used it on favor bags, place cards, guest book, etc. Note our rhyming names, our wedding’s slogan (a different take on the slogan we used in our announcement poster), and the inclusion of both the Gregorian and Baha’i date.

Raise the Standard!

Appreciation and Consumption

Samuel is clearly into it.

Dad digs it!

At our wedding reception, the Gingerbread Fortress of Well-Being was lovingly attacked by our friend, Inflatable T-Rex (who, despite his claws, used a knife), and then enjoyed by our guests as they danced the night away. Here is our final moment with it:

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