Monday, January 29, 2007

New digs

The office changed locations. I now have a window.
But I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about this: 5 years after starting this blog, I've decided to do like most other cool folks (and others not so cool), and so will continue my occasional posting on Wordpress.
So update your blogrolls to here.
Oh, stop laughing! Some folks actually might, you know!

Monday, January 22, 2007

His name is… Squirrel

Since the departure of our much-beloved Frances, the milliner and I have considered getting another pet. In fact, perhaps two pets, if only so they don't get lonely during those hours when we're not home. We're special that way.
Naturally, I wanted another Maine Coon, but was open to suggestions. And, of course, a dog. Something big. That slobbers all over you. And takes up half the bed. And is way too huge to require much exercise. But first of all, a cat.
So, relying on a certain yulblogger's suggestion, we headed out to SPCA Montérégie, a non-euthanasia shelter. Looked around one of the cat rooms, were attacked (in a friendly way, mind you) by some cats, smelled at by others, and completely ignored by the rest. One cat was sleeping, woke up when we got near, and latched on when we picked him up, nuzzling on ear lobes and hugging us madly. So, we told the folks we wanted him, paid, and left him for the week while he was to get another vaccination. And, therefore, I present, Squirrel.
His Name Is Squirrel
Tiny little thing, a bit of a complainer, but not loud at all. He just requires a lot of love. His name, apparently, comes from the fact that he was found under a bird feeder, trying to jump up to get the seeds. Of course, if ever we get another pet, we have to call it "Moose," but with a Russian accent.
BTW, if anyone is thinking of adopting a(nother) pet, really, go to the SPCA Montérégie: they especially need help these days.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Saturday night is not alright for first dates

Notes from a branché resto-slash wine bar:
  1. Get seated next to vaguely familiar politician conversing with a holdover from the Kajagoogoo days of new wave '80s. Realise vaguely familiar politician is, ahem, Andrew ClearWood. Date does not seem to be going well, Andy's credit card is already on the bar by the time they're eating their first tapas. Fifteen minutes later, they leave, taxi boy out the front, fearless leader to the back, where he goes to bathroom. Comes back out when he senses the coast is clear. No visible signs of grinding teeth.
  2. Their seats are taken up about 10 minutes later, this time by a somewhat attractive mid-40s woman and an older, distinguished-looking gentlemen. Said woman is wearing a white wool dress that's even shorter than anything I've seen on women down on Ontario east of St-Hubert. (Now I know what they mean when they say mini-skirts shouldn't be worn by anyone over 25, much less 45.) Short skirts on cold nights? Not a good idea: no one is turned on by blue lips, facial or otherwise. She's draping herself drunkenly over the gent, who is neither welcoming nor throwing off her advances. Instead, he seems to be drinking heavily in order to catch up to her state of being, which, it turns out, is a complete act, as she proves by calling and speaking coherently to her children (I'm guessing here) when he steps away.
  3. A couple then sits between drunk couple and us, looking fearful and uncertain, now that they're away from the friendly confines of the hip restos of St-Laurent and Sherbrooke. They look like they'll be heading to Shed Café for drinks afterwards. He's dressed in the requisite various shades of black, completely indistinguishable from the regular crowd of night vultures. She's gorgeous, perfect skin, looks like Vanessa Williams at the Golden Globes, except that she allows herself to occasionally eat more than one meal a day. She carries most, if not all, of the conversation, he smiles absently at her, probably wondering what his chances are for a little somethin somethin at the end of the night and also whether it's worth waiting out. Because? While she does carry the conversation, it's mostly all about her. From what I'm gathering, she's recently discovered the joys of therapy. And is re-evaluating her life, starting a conversation and deciding that, no, they shouldn't talk about that, and getting angry at him when he feigns interest. Because she doesn't want to talk about it.
The milliner and I decide at this point that, while the food and wine are really good in a nice setting, we've had enough.
Oh, and we adopted a cat.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Nevada City, CA

Back in the mid-nineties, I was a bit of an Ani D fanatic, finagling tickets through work to see her concerts. It just so happened that in the winter of '96, she was playing in Burlington, VT. So, of course, I call up her publicist, who gets me tickets and, bonus, a copy of "The Past Didn't Go Anywhere," a collaboration she made with Utah Philips, an interesting mix of ole timee folk and hip hop (or whatever style of music it is. I can't classify the kind of music kids are listening to these days. And get off my damned lawn!). Off to Burlington I go, amidst all the Green State lugs.
Afterward, TPDGA was a regular on the cd player, including the song Nevada City, CA, a stream-of-consciousness ditty about living in, well, Nevada City, California, a small mining town near the Sierras. Apparently, over time, it's become a "new-age chronosynclastic infindibulum," i.e. an epicenter of NARPs (new age rural professionals). Drumming circles, Robert Bly, high colonics, spelt cookies, holier-than-thou attitudes, etc.
What am I getting at? Well, this: yesterday, I get home, go through my mail, and come across a postcard inviting me to "discover" a book called, wait for it, "The Essence of the Bhagavad Gita, explained by Paramhansa Yogananda, as remembered by His (notice the capital 'H"?) Disciple, Swami Kriyananda." Quite a mouthful, that.
And just where would this publisher be located? That's right. Nevada City, CA. Weee!
I don't know why I'm on their mailing list, to tell the truth. Because, remember, no matter how new age you get, old age is gonna kick your ass.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Well, that's annoying

Just noticed that Google/Blogger has re-inserted the Nav Bar at the top of my page. The fuckers.
Went to their (awfully) written Help section, only to learn that it can no longer be removed. I like having decisions made for me as much as the next person, if not more, but this bites. Now it looks almost like a MySpace page, without the creepy stalkers.
I might just have to write a strongly worded letter to someone. Who, I don't know, but just you wait.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Unfortunate irony

Walking around the Plateau on Sunday, window shopping (refurbished and stained teak antique doors imported from India on Quebec-made armoires is the new black, don't you know), I couldn't help but notice the multitudes of pedestrians, cyclists and inline skaters out in the sun.
So, yup, the weather has gone to hell (almost literally!), yet it's the "outdoorsy" folks who are taking advantage of it all.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Christmas Ice Cream

A few years ago, the milliner and I were doing some holiday groceries. The cart was pretty full, I'm thinking "gosh, do we really need that second jar of water chestnuts," I'm building up a sweat from pushing the cart, looking forward to finally getting out of there. However, Ms. Milliner was making a bee-line for the freezer section, where she latched on to one of the last remaining containers of the chain's Christmas Ice Cream.

I had never heard of it, but quickly discovered the succulent joy of crushed candy canes and chocolate bits in a vanilla ice cream. Yup, it went straight to my hips (actually, more like my stomach), it was expensive as all get-out, and we found out later that it went on sale a couple weeks after the holidays, albeit somewhat stale.

So, when I bought the ice-cream attachment for our mixer, my first thoughts was, "damn, we're running out of room for all these attachments." My second thought, however, was "gee, I wonder if there's any hockey on the tube tonight." But my third thought, finally, was, mmmm, christmas ice cream. So, we came up with the following recipe. Normally, this would be an all-cream recipe, but we've substituted half the cream for milk, meaning you can have a double serving at only half the calories. (That's how it works, right?)

Christmas Ice Cream

  • 2 cups 35% (heavy) cream
  • 2 cups 1% milk
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 vanilla bean (you could use Tahitian vanilla, but it's expensive and, because the emphasis here isn't on the vanilla, buy a cheaper bean if you can find it.
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 12 candy canes crushed up in food processor
  • 3/4 cup chopped bittersweet (70%) chocolate

Seed the vanilla bean, i.e. cut it along the seam, dig out the seeds with the tip of a knife, and add to a pan with the milk and cream. Heat the cream mixture just to under a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes. In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until the sugar dissolves and the eggs yolks become white.

Strain out the cream, and slowly add to the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Refrigerate the custard overnight. The next day, place the custard in a sorbetière (ice cream maker), adding the candy canes and chocolate towards the end.

Finally, as always, enjoy! It's probably the only thing that's even marginally cold this winter.

Christmas ice_cream

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Taxi karma at its finest

Stumbling home from New Year's eve's festivities, the situation was pretty desperate, what with all the rain, the icy roads, and drunken Americans in hotel lobbies, all vying (and almost coming to blows) for an elusive cab. We head down to René-Lévesque, hoping that our luck will change. We duck under another hotel awning, wondering how the fuck we're going to get home and, if we do end up walking, just how sick we'll be when we get there.
Along come a trio of (you guessed it) Americans, lost and unable to find their auberge. We strike up a conversation, we give them directions to their destination, and start showing them the way. And then, miracle of miracles, a cab pulls up. Score! Fifteen minutes later, we're home, soaked to the bone, but home nonetheless.
Okay, that might not count as karma, per se, but I'll take what I can get.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Has it been that long?

Tin Woodsman
Waking up this morning, the milliner turns to me and says, "Happy birthday, honey." Still groggy, I make a quick calculation in my mind and think, wait, we're not already in March, are we? Because, wow, that was a long sleep. I might be late for work. After a delay, I realise that, hey, it's December 13.
Wow, 11 years later. I amaze myself sometimes. Top of the world, ma! Top of the world!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

What I wouldn't do

To be here.

Monday, December 04, 2006

And it's only been 30-some odd years

Got a call on Saturday from an old friend, asking if I wanted to go to tonight's hockey game against the bad Bruins. (In this case, "bad" meaning, well, bad.) Fuck, would I ever. Thinking back on it, I realised that I've only been to one hockey game before in my lifetime, in 1970, the Habs vs the Blackhawks.
So cool, good (manly) times ahead. Get some "steamies" and greasy fries at a local casse-croûte, swill watered-down expensive beer at the game, try to not get into a fight with drunken Boston retahds, and then head with the boys to the nearest nudie bar to ogle silicone-implanted pole-dancers.
Does it get any better than this? Okay, sleeping and snoring on the sofa won't be great, but it's a small price to pay.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Words I never expected to hear myself say

"Boy, I can't wait to go cross-country skiing soon."
Not telemark skiing. Not back-country skiing. Not ice climbing. Not winter camping. None of that.
No, the exact words were I can't wait to go cross-country skiing soon.
I'm almost embarrassed. Granted, I can see myself back-country skiing in order to winter camp.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Back in the spring of 2003, when the milliner and I first started seeing each other, I suggested a day trip to Burlington, VT. The day we meant to go turned out to be the typical sunny spring day that makes you glad to be alive. The milliner, however, was sick as a dog, so we postponed the trip. A couple weeks later, we figured, hey, today seems like a good day. So off we drove. Relying on my keen sense of direction and memory, we completely overshot the exit, by about 100 km, and ended up crossing the border down by New Hampshire way, which of course elicited scorn from the border guard, who nevertheless handed us a map so we could find our way to Burlington.

So, driving along the back roads of Vermont, what could be better than to be hit by a late-season ice/wet snow storm, which slowed us down so much that by the time we got to Burlington the stores were closed, they had rolled up the sidewalks for the evening, we could hardly see the lake, and so forth. Yup, no one can show the ladies a good time like yours truly. Naturally, by now we're kinda starving, but the restos along Church St. only offered the fine American dining specialty of deep-fried, well, everything, really.

However, as our frustration was hitting 11, we noticed Smokejacks. It looked cute, the menu looked great (woohoo, locally grown meats, veggies, wine and cheeses) and the cocktail list looked even better. In we go. As we looked over the menu, our stomachs borborygmic (hee), the waitress dropped a basket of bread on our table. I grab a square of what looked like corn bread, took a bite, and pretty much wet my pants. The milliner and I looked at each other, and pretty much said "oh fuck" at the same time. This was amazing. Soft bread, brimming with olive oil and rosemary and salty goodness. I was in heaven. I had never had foccacia this good before.

We've been back to Smokejacks several times since, sometimes when driving back from climbing, sometimes just driving down there just for another of their meals. I will sometimes call ahead and ask for foccacia to be set aside so that I can bring some home. After several attempts to replicate their recipe, I think I've come as close as possible to the ethereal thing. So here we go:


This is adapted from Dough, a book I highly, highly recommend, as would my personal tester, who occasionally leaves some crumbs for me.
  • 18 oz bread flour
  • 2 oz olive oil
  • 15 grams (1/2 oz) fresh yeast
  • 10 grams salt (I use gray)
  • 11.5 oz lukewarm water
  • more olive oil, some kosher salt, and a few sprigs of fresh rosemary for the topping
(You may add some semolina to the dough for a more authentic method, but I didn't have any, so there you go.)

In a bowl, work the salt and yeast into the flour, add the olive oil and water, and mix it all together. Turn onto a counter, and work the ingredients together. Lift the dough and slam it back onto the counter. Repeat. Repeat again. After about 5 minutes (seriously!), you'll have a nice, uniform mass. Place back into the (lightly floured) bowl, cover and let it sit for an hour. Alternatively, I'll let it rise for about 30 minutes and then place in the fridge while I run errands or whatever, which helps develop some lovely acids and stuff. Don't ask me exactly how or what happens, because chemistry is hard.

Remove from the fridge, let it come to room temperature and, well, just ignore it. Grab a roasting pan or a deep-sided baking sheet (don't ask me for measurements because, again, math is hard), oil it up, and turn the dough into it. Spread the dough out, but don't worry about getting the dough spread to the sides. Leave it, covered, for about 45-60 minutes.

Come back, dimple the dough, drizzle the dough with olive oil, rosemary and salt, and leave, again, for another 45-60 minutes. The original recipe calls for only a 30-minute wait, but i found that leaving it for extra time made the final product much fluffier. And I'm nothing without my fluff. Just saying, is all. (Also, I was busy making supper so didn't have the oven space for the bread.)

Bake in a preheated oven at 425F for about 30 minutes. Remove from the pan and, if you can, let it rest.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Perfect Execution

Chris Sharma better look out. This (link shamelessly stolen from my bro) is my 4-year-old nephew, showing how to get your feet to a foothold above your head.
Notice the flag? Notice the amazing mantle? Notice the straight-arm technique? Hard core. Hard. Core. Then again, he was doing knee-bars at the age of one.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

This is our last goodbye

Last goodbye
Frances, 17-years-old, 1989-2006, adopted from the SPCA. I've pretty much spent entire adulthood with her. So many apartments, a few different lovers, good times, bad times.
She got so old so fast.