peeking into the lives of others

From this day forward, I will always mentally shave off the front walls of apartment buildings, so I can imagine the lives that each little box holds inside.

Firefighters evaluate the scene of an apartment building where the front wall collapsed because of Hurricane Sandy on Monday in New York City.
Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images.

Via Slate.

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WORLD PEACE

It was glorious.

The testosterone. The food. MIA flipping the bird.

Plus I was right and the Giants won.

We had a great Super Bowl party, complete with pounds of meat from a variety of animals, dripping in BBQ sauce. Also: hummus, baba ghanouj (however you spell it), caramelized onion dip, curry dip, chips of all kinds, veggies, apples with caramel-skor dip, Katie’s mystery dip, deadly mini-marshmallow squares, and… beer nuts. Which, I learned, have no beer in them.

Combine in a 12-inch skillet:

  • 2 cups roasted, salted peanuts
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup water

peanut soup.

Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes. When the sugar syrup starts to go granular, this is your chance to add seasonings. I did one batch plain, and to the second batch, I added:

  • cinnamon and cayenne pepper to taste

Crank the heat to medium-high and stir constantly, as the sugar starts to caramelize. If the sugar starts to smoke or burn, you were too enthusiastic. Turn down the heat.

caramelize-y.

Once about 1/2 to 3/4 of the sugar is caramelized (so some of it still looks granular), remove from heat and spread on a greased or parchment paper-ed cookie sheet. Allow to cool for 30 minutes in your kitchen, or two minutes on your balcony in the midst of a Canadian winter.

go sit outside and think about what you did.

Once they’re hardened, you can bash the big clumps apart with a wooden spoon (it’s therapeutic). Store in an airtight container. Give them to your amigos and secure your rightful spot as favourite friend ever.

clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose

The Patriots' Rob Gronkowski brings back the old-school touchdown spike. Al Bello/Getty Images

I am “doing” the Superbowl this year. As in, I am actually paying attention for the first time ever. Giants! Patriots! Linebackers and tight-ends! Eli Manning? Tom Brady!

Okay, it mostly means I plan to cook stupid amounts of food based around blocks of cheese and pounds of meat and the glorious sound of a bubbling deep-fryer. (For inspiration, I am turning to one of my besties and her detailed list of game day recipes. You should too, here.)

Right now, everything I know about football I learned from Friday Night Lights, so my actual participation in the watching of the game will probably be limited to making snide comments about the players’ tattoos and facial hair. If I do get roped into a conversation about the actual game, I’ll have to refer to field positions by the names of the characters on the show.

Well hi there Tim Riggins.

To avoid having to refer to the fullback as “that position that the really cute drunk guy plays,” I’ve been doing scattered football research. I have found some amazing things. Here is your one-stop shop for random conversation starters for non-fans, if you get roped into watching the game on Sunday:

  • Tebowing, obviously.
  • Rob Gronkowski’s reinvention of the spike.
  • If you’re not into the game itself, check out this primer on the reasons for the outrageous costs of advertising during the game. (In a nutshell: “…nonfootball mass entertainment has been in a decades-long spiral of decline that was only temporarily halted by an ice-world knee-clubbing.” Brilliant. Except I don’t think the author takes into account the aura that surrounds a buying a spot during the big game. People google “Super Bowl ads” and then settle in for a long evening on YouTube.)
  • And then there’s this fun fact — Americans will devour 1.25 billion wings on Sunday… that’s about 312 million chickens for one day of feasting.

Now, when I say I’m doing the Superbowl for the first time, it’s a bit of a lie because there is one tradition that I have squarely participated in for years: the commercials. One of the few bad things about being Canadian is the fact that we don’t get the Amurrrrricahn commercials… so thank god for YouTube. My favourite from last year:

So anyway. Go…. Giants, I guess? I do love me an underdog. I call it for the Giants by 10, solely because I’m copying the DJ on Montreal’s 94.7 Hits FM.

the prodigal child returns

It’s freezing cold, but the snow finally arrived with two days to spare, so I will stop complaining about wanting a refund.

please hang on for two more days. iiiiiii'mmmmm dreaaaamming of a whiiiiiiite chriiiiistmas...

There have been a multitude of high points, and I still have more than a week at home. All the regular sappiness: family and friends, warm homes and hearts. But also:

the final minutes of the 28-hour journey takes me directly over the hills where I grew up. yes, you can see my house.

MONTREAL. enough said.

latte art at Cafe Neve.. yes that is a Ninja Turtle in my coffee. it's a Michelange-latte.

BAGELS

And of course, the joys of fast Internet connections, to bring us gems like this:

“PONIES?!?!” (via Goulet.)

Yesterday was winter solstice — time to celebrate the return of the light. Happy holidays to you and yours.

a taste of home

Canadians gathered last weekend with one goal in mind: eat to the point of physical discomfort. Being thousands of miles from home doesn’t mean we can shirk our responsibility to overindulge, so a little group of Canucks gathered in Nairobi last Sunday. Mission: accomplished.

oh my.

We started with pumpkin soup, then came turkey, stuffing, potatoes mashed and roasted, garlic green beans, roasted carrots, gravy, cran, and a steady flow of red wine. Then two pumpkin pies, a red wine chocolate cake, ice cream and banana bread. We had a lot to be thankful for.

these pies have equally fantastic back-stories: one was made from an actual pumpkin, and the other from a can of pumpkin pie filling transported all the way from Canada in a suitcase.

Meredith documented the saga of preparing the glorious feast, so head over there for more photos, commentary and general merriment.

la piece de resistance: an 11-kg turkey named Jalal. (thanks Meredith for this photo.)

Happy belated Thanksgiving to all my Canadian friends. I hope your celebrations were as memorable as mine.

Will and Kate, plus eight… scones. Half of which I already ate.

it's scone-a be amazing.

Getting up at 5 a.m. to watch strangers get married is an opportunity that comes along once every, oh, 30 years. Seriously. Charles and Diana got married in 1981. The next direct heir to the thone isn’t even born yet. And I’m the kind of person who feels the need to participate just because it’s there.

I’m even sleeping at my mum’s tonight so we can get up and watch together. (That’s not pathetic by the way, that’s bonding. Like the time we spent two full days watching the last Liberal leadership convention. I still give Gerard Kennedy a big frigging F for that one.)

However, I figure I’ll still need a little incentive to shake off the sleep deprivation and get excited about who designed the dress. Hence: scones for breakfast.

This was my first attempt at scones and they were magnifique. Thank-you, Joy of Cooking. Apparently scones are easy. Who knew?

Preheat oven to 450. Sift together:

  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 2 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp sugar (half that if you don’t like sweet scones)
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Add:

  • 1/4 cup cold butter

Cut in that butter until the mixture resembles large-ish crumbs. Use two knifes, a fork or a pastry cutter. Or your hands (but try not to let your hot little hands melt the butter).

In a small bowl, whisk well:

  • 2 large eggs

Remove 2 tablespoons of the eggs and set aside for your glaze, then add to the remainder:

  • 1/3 cup heavy cream (or, since I didn’t have cream, 1/4 cup milk topped up with yogurt to make 1/3 cup. And maybe toss in a little extra butter during the previous step.)

Pour your wet mixture into you dry and stir together with the minimal amount of strokes. This is where I would add lemon zest or currants or some delicious surprise. I’ll experiment and get back to you. Add more milk/cream if necessary, but only so it JUST sticks together. Turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface and flatten it out until it’s about 8 inches round and 3/4 inch thick. Cut it into 8ish pieces (triangles, squares), place on an ungreased cookie sheet, and brush over the remaining 2 tbsp egg. Or if you don’t have a pastry brush, your fingers will work just fine. Sprinkle with:

  • sugar or coarse salt

Bake 15 minutes. Serve with butter, more butter, and jam. Or marmalade if you’re into that kind of thing. OR! Devonshire cream.

Fly that Union Jack high, put on a British accent, and remind yourself that Harry’s the good-looking one, anyway.

in which the Biebs turns 17 and we celebrate with hummus

Yesterday marked an important turning point for two individuals: Justin Bieber crept one year closer to being legal, and my dear friend — we’ll call him “The Mrs.” — attained the exulted age of legal + 11. If you don’t know who the former is, clearly you’re living under a rock inside a sensory deprivation tank in a cave in Outer Mongolia. If you don’t know who the latter is, well you should’ve come to the party, shouldn’t you? It was OFF DA HOOOOOOK. I spent the evening being maybe just a little bit too loud, but in an endearing way I’m sure.

So we celebrated, with Biebs tattoos, enthusiastic dancing (ok, that was just me), and this glorious hummus. I wanted a dip that was more filling and less heart-attacky than a dairy-based dip, but retained the flavah… and this hummus turned out to be up to the job. As with most dips, the amounts are all somewhat loose — so I’ve provided general measurements here, erring on the skimpy side. Taste and adjust and add as you go!

Belieber Curry Hummus
…one less lonely chickpea

You’ll need a blender/immersion blender/food processor for this (or a potato masher and a lot of pent-up rage). Beware — my last blender suffered an overheated and untimely death at the hands of a too-thick hummus. The poor little motor just couldn’t cope. So, if you’re using a blender let’s be sure we’re not overheating the poor child. You can do this by making sure you’re adding enough liquid.

We start by assembling into your chosen food-mashing machine:

  • 1 can (about 16 oz) chickpeas, a.k.a. garbanzo beans — if you’re concerned about your blender’s strength, just toss the whole can in there without draining them, weird bean liquid and all. This will make for a smoother, more liquidy hummus, but it will also maintain your healthy relationship with blendy.
  • 2 tbsp tahini (sesame paste) — I start with this much but usually end up adding more, the more you add the “nuttier” it is.
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 2 tsp garlic powder, or 1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp curry power — this depends a lot on how spicy your curry is, or what kind of tolerance you and your co-eaters have for curry. I put much more than this.
  • 1 tsp salt

Now turn that blender on and call that meeting to order. If it’s too thick, slowly pour in olive oil to lighten the load. Now taste it. You’ll probably want to add more of everything. Go for it. There are no rules here. When you’re happy with the flavour, pour it into your serving bowl, drizzle it with:

  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil

Then sprinkle on:

  • paprika, to taste

And now devour it. You can go the traditional pita bread route* or you can dip in any veggie your heart desires: sweet peas (my personal favourite), carrots, celery, bell peppers, cucumber, broccoli, cauliflower, on and on. By the end of last night I was dipping in blue-cheese-and-buffalo-wing potato chips, and that was delicious too. So the possibilities are endless.

* if your pitas are stale (personally I feel as though all the pita I get at the grocery store is stale since I used to live next to a Lebanese bakery), you can cut them into triangles and lay them out in a single layer on a baking sheet. It’s not necessary, but you can brush them with olive oil and sprinkle with rosemary/basil/garlic powder/etc if you’re feeling fancy. Toss them in the oven for a few minutes on 400 degrees — and voila, pita chips! Watch them carefully while they bake… otherwise your kitchen fills with smoke and you have to go running into the hall of your apartment building wearing only sweatpants and a bra to retrieve a fire extinguisher. And then your apartment smells like charred pita for days. (Hypothetical situation.)

As seems to be the theme these days, I have no hummus photo because we dove into it too quickly/I forgot. So here’s some birthday joy/friendlove to sate your appetite:

Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwww.