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

video

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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