Image and concept by the very clever New York based artist/designer Stefan Sagmeister. I highly recommend you check out his TED talks: The Power of Time Off and What I Have Learned

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Garlic Soup Recipe



Lord knows this isn't a cooking website. But this soup was good and easy, provided you start enough in advance to properly simmer things. It also made me feel a lot better when I was suffering from the December sniffles. Though it is most definitely garlicy, somehow it manages to be warm and soothing, not stinky and pungent. I promise.

This is a slight modification of a recipe from the lovely 101 Cookbooks website, which is a modification of a recipe by Richard Olney from his The French Menu Cookbook. Some genealogy for a soup!

Lovely Winter Garlic Soup
  • 4 cups chicken broth (you could use veggie broth)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 sage leaves
  • Pinch or two fresh thyme (or dry thyme)
  • a dozen medium cloves of garlic, smashed peeled, and chopped\
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped into big pieces
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 2 egg yolks
  • a healthy amount of freshly grated Parmesan cheese (this is up to you but I like a lot)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • crusty bread

Boil the broth, herbs, garlic and onion. I put it on high until it comes to a full rolling boil and then reduce it to low/medium simmering heat where I leave it for about half an hour to forty minutes. Once I tried to reduce it to only about 20 minutes and while the soup was still good, it wasn't nearly as good as when I let it simmer properly. Patience!

Strain your broth and put it back on the burner on low heat.

In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, cheese and pepper. This isn't a meringue and doesn't need to be frothy but should be well mixed and creamy looking. Slowly, while whisking, add the olive oil. If you add it all at once without stirring, your mixture will separate and it's all down hill from there. Trust me. I like to add some ground pepper to this concoction.

Slowly (yes again - I'm sorry) add a ladle or two of hot broth to the egg mixture. It is very important that you add this slowly or you will end up not with a creamy lovely soup, but with watery scrambled eggs. Continue to whisk vigorously while you add the ladles of hot broth.

This will bring your egg mixture to a warm temperature and now you are ready for the final step. Slowly (while whisking) add your warmish egg mix to the pot of hot broth. Once it's all added, whisk over low heat for a short while until it's all piping hot.

Cut up a crusty baguette and put some pieces in your bowl. Grate some paremesan cheese over top and grate some more pepper. Add soup. Drizzle some olive oil on top. Enjoy!

Garlic image by Robynejay.



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Snow in England



This is one of the snowiest Decembers in recent history for a lot of places. The United Kingdom is no exception (the above is a recent photo of the seashore in Brighton - about an hour south of London). Although it's been inconvenient, it's also been beautiful and has almost made it like Christmas to me. There's nothing like a dusting of snow to make you want to cuddle in and enjoy a few quiet days with family.

The photo above is from the wonderful Big Picture website. You can view their entire snow set here.

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Merry Christmas

(Or happy Christmas, if you're in the UK.)

We're at Dan's mom's cute little house in the very pretty Welsh valleys. I plan on spending the next 48 or so hours eating, drinking, cooking, reading, watching cheesy television and just generally being lazy.

x

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Lovely Sweater



I very much want this.

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I Don't Want You Coming Here



I quite like this album. It's mellow and nice.

That is all.

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Snow in London



For the past few days it's been snowing in fits and starts in London. Nothing quite as magical as the 'big' dump last January, but still. And there is something a bit magical about it happening right before Christmas.

On the negative side, two millimeters of snow in London is enough to grind the entire city to a halt. Seriously, the UNDERGROUND has been know to stop running for less. They call it "a weather event" over here. I wonder what they would call a Saskatchewan blizzard? A life altering catastrophe, I would imagine.

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I am in Love with Herb and Dorothy


HERB & DOROTHY Trailer from Herb & Dorothy on Vimeo.

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The Day I Met the Queen



Whether you love or hate the monarchy, you have to admit that Queen Elizabeth II had style.

From my experience, Canadians as a whole (with the exception of Aboriginal people who rightfully are quite wary of the representative of a country that tried to destroy their culture) are definitely more enamoured with the monarchy than the people living UK-side. I think it comes from some strange sense of displacement resulting from the fact that many Canadians are only first or second generation. Especially in my grandmother's generation, there is still a yearning for the imagined homeland, even for those who never really lived there. Francophones are, obviously, exempt from this observation as are the myriad of Canadians whose ancestors are from other parts of the world.

Some examples of our strange love affair with the monarchy:
  • I have personally been in the homes of multiple elderly people who have either commemorative plates or spoons (or both) with pictures of the monarchy proudly displayed on their walls.
  • Almost everyone in my family stayed up until 2 am to watch the wedding of Charles and Diana. I know this because even though I was only five years old, they kept me awake by feeding me caffeinated fizzy beverages and sugar.
  • My grandmother used to tell me that if I was very lucky (and lady-like) I could marry Prince William. Obviously my grandmother lacks an understanding about how royal marriages tend to work.
  • Many of us (delusionally) imagine that we do a good impression of the Queen's accent, which we practice during the long winter months. Some of us also practice The Royal Wave (TM).
  • I've been to at least a dozen formal dinning events where hundreds of people have risen to their feet, held their wine glasses in the air and chanted "To the Queen!". Yes, this is something we do. Even in Saskatchewan.
  • I know all the words to 'God Save the Queen' because when I was in elementary school, we sang it every morning after the Lord's Prayer and Oh Canada.
  • Every Canadian province spends money on a Lieutenant Governor, whose only job is to be our local Queen's Representative. All the LGs report to the all mighty Governor General of Canada, who is the closest thing we have in our country to the Queen (note: despite being appointed by the Canadian Government, she also reports directly to the Queen of England).
I am the only person I know in the UK who has actually met the Queen. It seems that it's much easier to meet royalty when you live in an outpost in the Canadian prairies than here in Britain. The event was the unveiling of a mural in the Saskatchewan Legislative Building during the province's centennial celebration. The Queen and her Prince were there to celebrate the anniversary and were on hand to unveil the mural. I was present (one of about 300 other people) because I worked for the agency that commissioned the mural.

The only reason I actually had occasion to speak to the Queen is because I was standing next to then Poet Laureate of Saskatchewan, an Aboriginal woman who was none too pleased with the history of the atrocities the British committed against her people throughout Canada's official history or the fact that, in her eyes, the Queen represented it. Picture it:
"Your Majesty, this is our wonderful Poet Laureate," speaker of the House of Commons.

"Oh, hello. Lovely to meet you," the Queen, her hand extended.

Poet's eyes go wide, face flushes and she takes a step back.

"This is my friend Amy," Poet Laureate.

"Um. Oh... OK then. Well, hello dear," the Queen says reluctantly to me and shakes my hand.

"OH MY GOD! YOU'RE THE QUEEN! HOLY CRAP!" (that would be me, though not verbatim)

The Queen moved on pretty damn quickly, let me tell you.

It's not that I am in awe of the monarchy and to be honest, I don't even really have a major political stance on whether UK (or Canadian) tax payers should continue to fund what is likely an archaic system that is past being useful. But she's the Queen! The iconic Queen of England whose face is on our money. I think I would react the same if I met, for example, Michael Jackson or Elizabeth Taylor. Again, not because I am a huge fan. Just because, you know, WOW!



















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Untitled



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I Wanna Speak Like Common People



As a language obsessive, one of the things that has dogged me since moving to the UK is the strange insistence so many people here have on using the word whilst instead of while and amongst instead of among (and a few others).

I've never adopted the habit and, in my professional life, often find myself correcting it out of our content. Over the last year or so that I've been in my job (I work in marketing), my insistence on using the common, modern while and among has slowly been eroded and quite recently, I'd all but given it up. Although my employer is quite agreeable and allows me to adopt the language style-guide I think is the most appropriate for the tone of our brand, I slowly allowed myself to become convinced that the difference was geographic and that as a Canadian, I just didn't relate to this particular turn of phrase.

Tonight, armed with a bit of time between episodes of The Wire, I decided to do a little research and I am renewed in my petition against the common use of these particular two terms.

According to Wikipedia, reputable language stylistas on both sides of the Atlantic have renounced the use of the word whilst, including the Times Online Style Guide and the Guardian Style Guide. "Notably, there are no style guides that explicitly recommend the usage of whilst over while in any circumstances whatsoever. The general consensus of English is that whilst is an unnecessary, archaic word whose primary usage is by Britons who prefer what they perceive as a more 'noble' word. Its etymology derives from the early English whiles and, simply put, while is the word that has replaced whilst in modern English, just as thee and thou were replaced by you." (source)

I've found similar results when trying to get to the bottom of the use of amongst over among.

So why are whilst and amongst so commonly used over here? I don't tend to spend time with pretentious people or royalty. I am most often editing things written by developers - that is, people who write code. Call them many things, but they are definitely not pretentious. If the origins of both words are similar to thee and thou, and the evolution of language has truly made them archaic, why are they still so prevalent, so ... common?

Although I am renewed in my effort to purge our official company language of these kinds of terms on the basis that I believe language is at its most effective and powerful when it is simple and accessible, I have to conclude that technically, whilst and amongst are not wrong or meant to be poncy (unless you are royalty) but likely just the result of habit.

Some sources I've looked at have suggested that the choice is completely aesthetic. Apart from writers and language whores, I doubt many people think about their choice long enough to really understand why they use one word over another. Besides, why would anyone intentionally choose to clothe their sentences in the linguistic equivalent of this:



Seriously.

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I'll Get You My Pretty!



Can someone please buy me some ruby red shoes? Think of all the money I would save on air fare.

In the spirit of the Wizard of Oz and other wind storm related things, London sounds like it's blowing away tonight. Seriously Saskatchewan, tonight London's gale force wind takes the prize.

Unrelated to stormy weather (I hope) - tomorrow le garçon and I are heading to Manchester where he is giving a talk about brilliant webby things. We are staying up there overnight and spending Thursday exploring the city, which, based on this website, actually looks like it might be cool.

Anyone out there from Manchester? Any tips?

Sweet dreams my pretties.

xoxoxox

These lovelies found via adnspirit.


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Dear Waitrose

We need to talk.

Let me preface this by saying that I am likely not your target customer. I am not independently wealthy and although I prefer not to, occasionally I do need to at least consider whether it is more clever to buy the £4 pasta sauce, or the jar for £1.

Despite this, my desire to visit your glowy fluorescent halls has, for the past few months, won out over considerations of money and I have been overcome with an addiction to your crispy and fresh leafy greens (not easy to come by in the UK), your organised aisles of neatly stocked specialty items, your genuinely impressive array of fresh herbs and your cheery employees. Your store is sunny and bright and is something like what I imagine a grocery store in heaven might look like. You know the angel in the Philadelphia Cream Cheese commercials? I bet she shops at a Waitrose.



It never smells like sour milk and you don't have any of those horrible self-checkout counters that has taken over most other grocery stores. I really resent that M&S, which is arguably just as expensive as you and, which runs a campaign based on their difference in quality to justify high prices (it's worth every penny!), have replaced nearly all humans with an extremely unfriendly self check-out system. Unless you shop during peak time, you have no choice but to bumble through one of those unpleasant machines yourself (usually only to find out that after all your effort, the machine doesn't take card, or coin, or just generally hates you).

Waitrose, maybe it's because you are a genuine diamond in the roughage of unfriendly and painful shopping experiences or maybe it's because even though I know I can't afford you, I still persist in giving you all my money (and I do it with love), that you broke my heart a little bit last week.

For the last month and a half you have not had any whole wheat pasta on your shelves - nothing. The only pasta of the whole wheat variety is that sticky gluey stuff in the refrigerated food aisle. And just between you and me, it's really pretty awful. The first few times I visited, I gave you the benefit of the doubt but last week, I decided to enquire at Customer Service. Here's where it gets ugly...

Although you have a big, bright and welcoming Customer Service desk, the girl who works there told me that to actually ask a question related to Customer Service, I need to dial a toll free number. She was nice about telling me and gave me the number but ... really? I also didn't get the impression it was just bad timing but that as a matter of course, to speak to Customer Service you expect me to use the telephone. The big desk is apparently a ruse - I guess if we see it, we assume we can get it and that makes us feel better? The poor kids who actually work at the Customer Service Desk must just be hoping that no one actually thinks to, er, ask a question.



Anyhow, I went home and called the toll free number. Thankfully, it didn't lead me to a phone tree or automatic recording, but rather a real human who was quite friendly. She explained (in a very perky manner) that other than the gluey fresh pasta, you have discontinued your line of whole wheat pasta and do not plan to carry another line any time soon.

Huh?

In this age where people are trying to be healthier, you, my beloved Waitrose, have decided to discontinue your entire whole wheat line of pasta? When your USP is that you offer good service and specialty items to justify huge price mark ups, you've decided to discontinue your entire whole wheat line of pasta? (I could go on...)

I suppose I should be thanking you. Despite my best efforts at convincing myself otherwise, I now feel compelled to go half a block down the street to Morrisons (the horror!), which makes me sad and angry because it is the grocery store equivalent of a MacDonalds Playroom on a Saturday afternoon.

Still, though I am missing you now, in more ways than one, this transition will eventually be good for my health. Which is what I'll be trying to tell myself next time I'm at Morrisons stumbling over toddlers and fighting for the last browning head of lettuce, while trying to avoid slipping in the pool of sour milk on the floor.

Sigh.

Amy
x

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When you wish upon a star ...




Image from Souvenirs.


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Ignite London


I haven't posted much about it here, but Dan and I have been planning the first Ignite London and it's happening tonight at Ginglik in Shepherd's Bush. Doors open at 7 pm and the talks will start between 7:45 and 8 pm. Admission is free.

Ignite was started in Seattle in 2006 by Brady Forrest of O’Reilly Radar and Bre Pettis of Make. Since then hundreds of five minute talks have been given across the world. Besides Seattle, there are thriving Ignite communities in Portland, Sydney, NYC and a lot more. The idea is simple: presenters are required to stick to a rigid format of 20 slides, each of which changes automatically after 15 seconds, ensuring that each presentation is exactly 5 minutes long. The format forces presenters to think long and hard about every slide.
We have some really great presenters lined up and I am genuinely looking forward to hearing their talks. If you are in the neighbourhood, be sure to check it out and say hello.

A last word of thanks to our sponsors: presenting sponsor Box UK, venue sponsor Ginglik (especially Colin for all his help) and non-monetary promotional sponsors the BBC and O’Reilly. Most important, thanks to all of tonight’s speakers who have donated their time, energy and creativity to creating an interesting and eclectic range of talks.

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Fall 2009 Pictures from London


Islington Farm Pig, originally uploaded by oladybug0.

Lots here including a visit to a very empty St. Pancras, the Islington Urban Farm (where the above lovely is from) and a bunch of other bits and bobs.

Visit the entire Flickr set here.



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USA East Coast Trip Pictures


NYC - Street Art, originally uploaded by oladybug0.

I've posted most of the images from my east coast (Boston and NYC) work trip we took in mid-October on my Flickr.

You can see the entire set, including images from the lovely Harvard University, here.



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New by me on The Januarist - Gardens for Small Spaces: Reinventing the Terrarium


Read the post here.

Above image by Litill.

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Hurricane London


This video was taken with the camera on my iPod Nano. The image quality is OK, but the sound is a little dodgy.

Anyhow, there is some kind of crazy ass tropical storm in the UK today, the likes I've yet to see in over a year living here. The wind is from the south and is cutting a swath from the channel straight into my garden.

I am from Saskatchewan (land of -50 C and winds that almost literally cut you in half) and I don't pretend our little gale compared to January in the Canadian prairies, but it is different. It feels tropical. London is far enough away from the ocean that I sometimes forget that I am living on an island. Today, with the wind moaning outside and the trees buckled over, coupled with the warmish +15 degree temperature, I feel a bit out of sorts. Like Dorothy, right before the lights go out. I think I'll stay in.

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British Oddities - Eggs



I could easily construct a top ten list of the things I find most culturally odd about Britain (and in some ways, I have an ongoing one I am compiling and revising constantly in my head). On that list I would definitely include that supermarkets in this country consistently do not refrigerate their eggs. It is also considered completely normal to keep your eggs on the counter top in your kitchen, not in the ice box.

According to the Egg Safety Centre (yes, there is such a thing!), you should refrigerate eggs and even throw out any that have been accidentally left out on the counter for over two hours and the USDA agrees. Despite the fact that it feels patently wrong to me to not refrigerate any animal products (meat, eggs, cheese, milk ...) I do regularly eat eggs over here that have undoubtedly lived chill free on a supermarket shelf, and as far as I know, have yet to get sick from them.

I do put them in the fridge the moment I get home from the market though and I have to say, if I think about it too much, it creeps me out a little.

Two points to anyone who can tell me how this cultural anomaly came about!

Robin Eggs image from Photoholic1.

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Dancing Robot



Just because.

Image found via the lovely Souvenirs.

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Fall



This image reminds me of Saskatchewan.

Fall is my favourite season. I love the cooling sweater (jumper) weather, the colours, the crunching leaves. I even like the excuse rainy days (like today in London) give us for staying in.

Image by AP/Charlie Riedel, from the Big Picture.

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Fleetwood Mac at Wembley



Last night Dan and I saw Fleetwood Mac play at Wembley Arena in London. They are doing two shows here are part of their big reunion tour and with their Rumours line-up (apart from Christine McVie) it seemed worth the exorbitant price.

There was no opening act, but that was ok because Fleetwood Mac played for over two and a half hours - a feat considering they are all in their late 50s or older and Lindsay Buckingham and Mick Fleetwood played like maniacs the entire time. Stevie Nicks has always been the star of Fleetwood Mac for me, second only to the torrid emotional history of the band, which, even now, seems to inform so much of their chemistry on stage. Even though it probably isn't so, it feels like every lyric about lost love is about the sad end to the relationship between Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham. The way they move around and connect with each other on stage is either a very clever act to engage the audience or they made a terrible mistake all those decades ago when they broke up.

Lots of people would say that the personal history of people in a band shouldn't matter, but Fleetwood Mac's music is saturated in a kind of emotional regret and angst, somehow made all the more poignant because they are old and they can't go back.

Apart from a few embarrassing moments when Lindsay Buckingham got a little too 'rock star' on his guitar solos, Stevie Nicks twirling around in her strange goth bird-wing dresses or Mick Fleetwood trying to turn a long drum solo into a kind of weird rave song with synthesizer and all, it was a great show. My favourites were and will probably always be Landslide, Dreams, Rhiannon and Sara. And watching the poignant exchanges between Buckingham and Nicks as she sang "I'd go anywhere, anywhere, anywhere ... when you build your house, well then call me home."

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Next Time You Say Forever



If I could pick one super power it would be to sing like Neko Case. Recently I've been obsessed with her newest album Middle Cyclone and just over a month ago when she was in concert at the Barbican in London, I was pleased to find her voice just a hair-raisingly beautiful in person.

From the song Next Time You See Forever,

I hear the tiniest sparks in the tenderest sound.
Diving music, drowning the sound,
Waltzing with the hairs upon my arms.
And your fire flood alarm, and you tremble, and you stumble, and you scrape up your palms.

I can't stay here to hold your hand.
I've been away for so long
I've lost my taste for home, and that's a dirty, fallow feeling ...

The next time you say forever, I'll punch you in the face.

Image from Awkward World.


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Isadora Duncan



From the time I was five until I turned about 14 I took ballet classes. I was never very good and though sometimes I hated it (like when the pointe shoes made my toes bleed), mostly I loved it and the crazy Miss. Carnrick who taught me. Apart from an obvious lack of natural ability, I am also not really physically right to be a ballerina. By the time I was 14, it was abundantly clear that I was not to be a waifish, long-necked, swan-like creature. I am not tall and I am not particularly graceful.

I still love the ballet and the stories of the eccentric dancers who populate its history. One of the most intriguing to me has always been Isadora Duncan. Born in America, Duncan danced in Paris, Brazil and Russia and was probably best known for dancing barefoot (smart lady - those shoes hurt). But it wasn't so much her life that I was always the most interested in, but her death. According to Wikipedia:

Duncan's fondness for flowing scarves which trailed behind her was the cause of her death in a freak automobile accident in Nice, France, on the night of September 14, 1927, at the age of 50. The scarf was hand-painted silk from the Russian-born artist Roman Chatov. The accident gave rise to Gertrude Stein's mordant remark that "affectations can be dangerous."

Duncan was a passenger in the Amilcar automobile of a handsome French-Italian mechanic, Benoît Falchetto, whom she had nicknamed "Buggatti" (sic). Before getting into the car, she said to a friend, Mary Desti (mother of 1940s Hollywood writer-director Preston Sturges), and some companions, "Adieu, mes amis. Je vais à la gloire!" ("Goodbye, my friends, I am off to glory!"). However, according to the diaries of the American novelist Glenway Wescott, who was in Nice at the time and visited Duncan's body in the morgue (his diaries are in the Beinecke Library at Yale University), Desti admitted that she had lied about Duncan's last words. Instead, she told Wescott, the dancer actually said, "Je vais à l'amour" ("I am off to love"), which Desti considered too embarrassing to go down in history as the legend's final utterance, especially as it suggested that Duncan hoped that she and Falchetto were going to her hotel for a sexual assignation.

Whatever her actual last words, when Falchetto drove off, Duncan's immense handpainted silk scarf—a gift from Desti that was large enough to wrap around her body and neck and flutter out of the car, became entangled around one of the vehicle's open-spoked wheels and rear axle. As The New York Times noted in its obituary of the dancer on September 15, 1927, "Isadora Duncan, the American dancer, tonight met a tragic death at Nice on the Riviera. According to dispatches from Nice Miss Duncan was hurled in an extraordinary manner from an open automobile in which she was riding and instantly killed by the force of her fall to the stone pavement." Other sources describe her death as resulting from strangulation, noting that she was almost decapitated by the sudden tightening of the scarf around her neck.

The beautiful image above is from Mushin.



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What I've Been Up To



I have been writing for The Januarist and about all manner of absurdities. It's a lot of fun because I get to explore the strange little things I am interested in and it's quite different from the more person stuff I tend to post on here. A bit about The Januarist:

The Januarist is written by a bunch of people who like to juxtapose the past with the present. We’re not a die-hard group of nostalgists, but recognise the value in things oft-forgotten or superseded.

There are some really great writers involved including the lovely Friday Films, my handsome man and some others.

I'll still be updating this blog regularly (or as regularly as I've ever done). Things have been crazy in the last few weeks with a work-related trip to New York and Boston and then this last week spent in Canada as I've been upgrading from my Holiday Makers Visa to a five year UK Ancestry Visa. Thankfully, it came in quickly and I'm on my way home to lovely London tomorrow.

x


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Oh, Canada.



I've been in Toronto, Canada since Sunday night sorting out my UK Ancestry Visa, which thankfully was approved and was mailed back to me yesterday. I am staying with the lovely Crystal and Luke and my time here has been a good opportunity to reflect on things. For the last four months or so, I've been watching the allowable working time on my UK Holiday Maker's Visa tick down to almost nothing and though I've always known the Ancestry option was there, it was still a big, scary mystery. You actually have to apply from the Visa from within Canada, and they take your passport away, which is scary. My life is in London now - a boyfriend I adore, my flat, my things - and the feeling of being unable to go 'home' was terrifying (especially given that they tell you the Visa will take between five and 50 working days to process). The experience has given me a new appreciation of the UK. For all my griping about their funny ways (and my goodness, there are some strange habits and customs), it has slipped from becoming a place I am staying to a place I am living. Now when I tag a post to 'homesick', I am no longer referencing Saskatchewan.

So now I have my visa and I am good to work and live in the country for five years and for some reason I still feel incredibly panicky. I've been worried about this Visa for so long and I am still worried, but now it's about something less tangible. I'm sure the fact that I've spent the last day or so reading The Wit of the Staircase by the brilliant but crazy Theresa Duncan isn't adding to my sense of security.

Someone say something reassuring.

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Do We Really Need This?



I love the Sex and the City television series but, let's face it, the movie was shit. The sequel to the movie will be even worse. They are going back to the 80s for Christ sakes!

Is anyone actually into this?

Image from The Frisky.


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Quick Hello

Hello!

I've been a bit absent here because the world is spinning out of control (in a good way) and I can't believe it is autumn. I have this whole list of things I want to tell you (like the story of how I got seasick in the middle of the lovely Monterrey Bay and attracted two grey hump backs and an entire pod of killer whales) but instead, I'll leave you with this:



Does the look on Obama's face not say everything we need to know about the crooked, cheating Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi? Love it.

(Found via Dan. Image from It's Nice That)

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Tiffany Blue Ice

 

Despite that it isn't cold enough for water to actually freeze in most parts of the UK, people here are ga ga for outdoor ice skating in the winter. They set up winter carnivals (usually set in front of a beautiful, elaborate old building) with rides and skating rinks all lit with elaborate fairy lights.

This year Tiffany & Co is presenting the Skate at the lovely Somerset House in London. Tiffany blue is my favourite colour and the fact that, at least in their promo picture, the ice looks like an illuminated version of that colour makes me swoon just a little bit. It's enough to make me want to pay to look like a fool by falling on my ass as I pull myself around that pretty blue rink. I'll even advance book for the pleasure.

Thanks to Dave Joyner, without whom I may never have found this.

(Image from the Somerset House website)

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I Like Obama BUT...

This dress (worn by actress Victoria Rowell at the Emmy's over the weekend) is whack.



Found via the hilarious bitches at Go Fug Yourself.

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Obsessive Compulsive Thinking Turns Me On


(image from We Make Money Not Art)

On September 20th the wonderful exhibition Fabiola closed at the National Portrait Gallery. I was lucky enough to see it in passing one day while en route to meet a friend for an afternoon drink. It is a wonderful example of passion fueled by what I think of as a creative form of OCD. Julia Child had it for cooking and clearly this guy, Francis Alÿs, had it for the Christian Saint Fabiola.

From the National Portrait Gallery website:

Created by the internationally acclaimed artist Francis Alÿs, Fabiola is an installation of hundreds of portraits of a fourth-century Christian saint. These portraits, including paintings,embroidery and miniatures, are all versions of the same nineteenth-century original, and were gathered by the artist from flea markets, antique shops, and private collections. This is a fascinating exploration of a portrait that has become an icon.
Incidentally, Saint Fabiola was a happy lass who

renounced all that the world had to offer her, and devoted her immense wealth to the needs of the poor and the sick. She erected a fine hospital at Rome, and waited on the inmates herself, not even shunning those afflicted with repulsive wounds and sores. Besides this she gave large sums to the churches and religious communities at Rome and other places in Italy. All her interests were centered on the needs of the Church and the care of the poor and suffering.
(Source: Wikipedia)

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Lovely New Coffee Table


After searching the furniture shops of London high and low, we found a lovely, lovely coffee table in Heal's but alas, it was slightly (quite a bit, eek!) out of our budget. We didn't want to go the cheap IKEA route because we spend most of our time in our little living room. The flat is open plan so the kitchen is right off the living room and so are the patio doors leading to the garden so unless sleeping or bathing we are pretty much always there.

Our flat came partially furnished but there are still bits and pieces we've had to purchase. Other than the bed, the coffee table was probably the most important piece because, even though we do plan to buy a small dining room table and a little desk, it is likely where we'll do most of our eating and living.

We've also got a really clean, white aesthetic thing going on (Dan is design obsessed) and a standard wooden table would have looked heavy and out of place. Luckily we are crafty and once we got home, we found the exact same table online for almost half price, including delivery. It should be with us in 10 to 20 days. Yay!

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Yep, Totally Nuts

But totally adorable.

Watch Julia child on Dave Letterman in the late 80s.



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Bread, According to Julia Child



I am nearly through the Julie Child autobiography My Life in France and I can't help but think that she was a little nuts. Despite that she says she's writing for the average North America home cook, some of her recipes are insanely complicated and difficult, such as this one for bread:
Transform a home oven into a simulated baker's oven, with a hot surface for the bread to bake on, and some kind of simple but effective steam-generating contraption. These elements are necessary for one to get just the right rise and just the crisp crust of true French bread. Eventually Paul's Yankee ingenuity solved the first problem, when he slid a tile made of asbestos cement onto the oven rack to heat up with the oven: a perfect, affordable baking surface. But creating the all-important burst of steam, which forms the crust, was more difficult. Eventually we discovered that, by placing a pan of cold water in the bottom of the oven, and dropping a very hot brick (or stone or metal ax-head) into it, one could produce the perfect steam-puff. Eh voila! We had created the first successful recipe ever for making French bread ... in a home oven. What a triumph!
Right. I'll get right on it.

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The Desecreation of My Life in France by Julia Child



I'm currently reading My Life in France by French gourmande extraordinaire, Julia Child and am mostly enjoying the book. Child is charming and dorky and makes me feel like I am listening to someone's great aunt tell a story about her youth. Sometimes it gets a bit tedious but there is also something lovely and simple about it. It's good Tube reading material because I can dip in an out and there isn't much to keep track of.

Now on to the atrocity bit. This was the original cover of the book:



It's classy, simple, charming (not to mention adorable) and features Julia and her husband Paul Child on the cover in one of their famous Valentine cards.

Now, I bring you to the new cover (the ONLY version shops seem to stock at the moment):



Not only has the book become a blatant advertisement for the film Julie and Julia but for some completely mind-boggling reason they have replaced the image of the real Child with the actress who plays her in the film - Meryl Streep.

I really like biographies and the whole point of reading them is because I am interested in the real-life person behind the story. I assume I'm not alone in that. I don't know anyone who seeks out a biography who would rather see pictures of an actress from the biopic rather than the real person. If I wanted to see Meryl Streep on the cover of my book, I would buy a biography about her. I suppose I should feel grateful that they've left the photos inside the book intact instead of replacing them with stills from the film.

And what's with the Sex and the City-like New York skyline next to the title that turns into the Eiffel tower? I am 3/4 of the way through and so far no one has spent any time in New York. Sheesh!

I have nothing against the film (though I haven't seen it yet so it could be terrible) but being forced to look at a promo for it every time I pick up this book almost makes me want to boycott it out of spite. Thoughts?

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Why My Trousers are Too Tight - California Eating



A few weeks ago Dan, his mom Gwyn and I went on a one week whirlwind trip to California. Not one to take things slowly, Dan had prepared a fairly intense schedule that included time in San Francisco, Yosemite National Park, Monterrey, Carmel, San Juan Battista, Santa Cruz and a drive up Big Sur. Though I've spent some time in California, most of it has been in cities - San Francisco, LA - and I genuinely had no idea how truly diverse and beautiful that state is.

We had really hot weather the entire time we were there, even in San Francisco, which is not known for its balmy summers. The day we arrived it was well over 30 degrees in San Francisco - perfect for dinner on a patio and cold Steam Anchor beer. This trend continued and by the time we were en route to Yosemite, about two days later, it had peaked at well over 35 degrees.

But this post is about food. Living in the UK, sometimes I forget how amazing eating really fresh produce is. The food ethos over here is so curious - they don't refrigerate things like eggs, which in my mind, clearly need refrigeration, but they do refrigerate tomatoes and avocados, which clearly don't. Don't even get me started on the challenge of finding a fresh, crispy leafy green...

California is geographically, a huge state, and because most of its mass runs north to south, it is also incredibly diverse. For a place that is so heavily populated, there is a shocking amount of space - from Yosemite National Park to the more flat fields where California's famous tomatoes and fruit grow in such abundance. On the road between San Francisco to Yosemite there were dozens of little road side stands selling everything from pears, apples and peaches to heirloom tomatoes, all local and fresh. With all of this available, it stands to reason that the state has some wonderful restaurants that pride themselves on serving beautiful, fresh, local produce.



1. Zuni Cafe - 1658 Market Street, San Francisco
I loved the brevity of the food menu at this restaurant. Instead of having pages and pages of possibilities, they had a very tight selection of dishes that they were confident they could do perfectly. I also loved that every single day the menu changes depending on what is fresh and available. They don't make squash soup unless it's in season. They don't do certain kinds of seafood unless it is available locally. Basically, they do everything a restaurant in a place as rich with local food as San Francisco should do.

We started with a gnocchi with an herb, thyme buttery wine sauce and little pieces of zucchini. It wasn't like pasta, the texture just absolutely melted the moment it went in my mouth. To begin, we also had these delectable little shoe string potatoes - fancy chips really.

My main course was a beautifully done (medium rare) tuna served with local vegetables and canneli beans. Initially, I wasn't sure about ordering it because I don't have a lot of experience with tuna apart from the odd raw piece with sushi or the canned variety. Fresh tuna is absolutely amazing and I've already made a point of having it once since being back in the UK. Canned tuna is quite fishy tasting but fresh tuna is lovely and flaky and mild. It was definitely one of the top five meals of my live.

2. Citizen Cake - 399 Grove Street, San Francisco
Let me qualify how good this place is by telling you that I didn't have anything chi chi here - I had a cheese burger and fries with a chocolate cupcake for dessert - and it was absolutely, fantastic. The beef tasted beefier then I can ever remember beef tasting, the cheese was cheesier, the chips crispier - it was a simple but beautifully prepared meal. Just thinking about it gives me a hankering for a hamburger, except that hamburgers are never this good. Ever. And the cupcake! I wish I had a picture because it was a truly lovely, insanely moist little cake with a gigantic dollop of butter cream icing on top. I love icing but the trick is to find a balance between sweet and not TOO sweet and this was perfect. The only other cupcakes that I've ever had that are even near the same category as this are Lola's cupcakes from the bakery in Primrose Hill (you can also get them at Selfridges).

3. Houston's - 1800 Montgomery Street, San Francisco
For those of you in Canada, no this isn't a Houston's like the Houston Pizza places (not that I'm knocking them - if you ever want real pizza, Houston in Saskatchewan is really the only thing there is). This was in a dark little place near the bay and it was heaving with people - obviously a local favourite. We ate here at our last night in California and we wanted to indulge. And oh, did we ever. A garlic cheese bread, artichoke and spinach dip, full rack of ribs, loaded baked potato and bottle of wine later, we weren't sure we would meet the weight limitation for our aircraft the following day. It wasn't fancy and the portions were huge in the way only North American portions are, but the food was done beautifully. It was exactly what BBQ should be - tender, tangy and filling.

4. Basil Seasonal Dinning - San Carlos between Ocean and 7th, Carmel-by-the-Sea
With a name like that, you know it will be good and it was. First off, if you are having a meal there they automatically bring you out freshly baked bread with this beautiful pesto dip. In the UK that would be an appetizer they would charge £4 for! For my main entry I ordered a linguine in a white wine and garlic sauce heaping with local clams. It was simple and fresh tasting and really lovely. Dan had a steak salad and his mom had a pulled pork sandwich - everything looked really, really nice. The only complaint I have about this place is that, like a lot of Carmel, it was a bit snooty and that included the service. Our waitress wasn't awful but she was cold, a bit unfriendly and it was very obvious to us that we weren't terribly important to her. That said, my clams were worth it.

There were lots of amazing meals including a few we had at the restaurant at Evergreen Lodge just outside of Yosemite and the Red House Cafe in Pacific Grove, which is a short walk from Cannery Row in Monterrey. I could go on, but it's making me hungry.

You can see more California photos on my Flickr.

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Oh, the Places You Will Go!



In North America Dr. Seuss is a big part of the young life and imagination of a lot of kids. From children's classics like Green Eggs and Ham and Hop on Pop to, probably his most popular work, How the Grinch that Stole Christmas (also made into a short television animation that plays faithfully every year throughout the holiday season), Seuss is one of those icons of young imagination in North America. I was surprised to find that a lot of people in the UK have never heard of him, or if they have only distantly.

I didn't discover Seuss' Oh, the Places You Will Go until high school when a friend gave me the book as a gift as encouragement for something or other.

Today is your day.
You're off to Great Places!
You're off and away!

This is pretty much it throughout the book only said in different rhymes. In a few pages and a few hundred words it encapsulates what endless self-help books and Dr. Phil episodes are constantly trying to tell us: that as individuals we control our destiny and can do amazing things if we set our minds to it.

Of course I know this is somewhat naive. I am privileged in a lot of ways and I know that were it not for opportunities I'm afforded because of a lot of factors I was lucky enough to get at birth, it would have been much harder to choose then the book makes it out to be. Despite this, I've carried this book around with me for years and whenever I feel like I need a pep talk, I pull it out. It is currently sitting on the bookshelf in the new London flat.

In mid-October I will have been in the UK for a year - first in Cardiff and now in London. When I think about how much my life has changed over the past 12 months and how many things I've been fortunate enough to see and do, my head spins a little. I know that I am really lucky and I am trying my best to not take it for granted and to enjoy it.

In the past year I've moved from Regina to Cardiff and then again to London. I've traveled to around the UK and have been to Berlin, Paris, Istanbul, Indianapolis, New York, Monterrey, Carmel, San Francisco, Yosemite, Calgary, Banff, Lake Louise, Toronto and Niagara Falls. I've met someone wonderful and am really, truly happier then I can ever remember being.

Enough sap. Here are some pictures:


Cardiff, Wales right before I moved to London.


The lavender and genuinely lovely, furry bumble bees in the garden at our new London flat.


Dan and I (reflection) outside a lovely Mexican restaurant last week in the wilds of Northern California, on the drive between Yosemite and Monterrey.

Pretty good year.

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Polaroid!!


p-jackie-amy, originally uploaded by oladybug0.

My boyfriend is lovely and in addition to the Holga, he bought me a sweet little Fuji Mini Polaroid Camera, which takes the cutest little instant photos in the world.

The Flickr set includes my girl Friday's birthday, a trip to Toronto (and the lovely Crystal) and some lovely London times.



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