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)
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)
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.
Found via the hilarious bitches at Go Fug Yourself.
(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)
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!
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.
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?
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.
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.