Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Lamp It Up: Redux


So, it turns out my in-laws had an embarrassment of riches where lamps were concerned. My last project involved these beauties and I couldn't be happier with them. The shades from Restoration Hardware work perfectly and the clever little finials make me smile every day.

After boxing up the cottage, it turns out there was another set of lamps not living up to their full potential: A dusty rose, pleated bell-shade can have that effect on almost anyone. Once those were tossed these tall brass bases really shine. The tarnish is perfect making the metal look more like mercury glass. In lamp light they have a greenish patina, which works wonderfully in my living room.

The distance between the finial and the harp base is large, so these guys will require a really tall shade. Back when I was working on the marble lamps I was considering black drum shades; I think that style will work beautifully with these, so the search is back on! I think I've found the perfect finials too - check them out. Pretty over-the-top, but a little glitz never hurt anybody.

I'll keep you posted. Meanwhile, I've got another project on-the-go. My boyfriend Jeff fell in love with an old wooden birdcage he saw at an antique shop when he was a kid. He proudly brought it home and it sat in the living room for years. During Purge Fest 2008 it went up against the Toss-Keep-Donate Jury.

I have a firm belief in taking meaningful objects and adjusting them to work in a contemporary setting. Like your Grandma's old piano - the cherry finish ain't working in your mid-century modern dwelling, but it holds a ton of sentimental value, so, for the love of God, have that sucker refinished! It's still the same piano, still full of memories, its precious ivories untouched. So make it work!

Because the honey-coloured wood and sad-Cat-Lady-overtones weren't working for me, I convinced Jeff to let me spray out the cage in a high-gloss black. I plan to hang a single old-school Edison bulb inside and - shazam! - our very own, ultra-cool, one-of-a-kind lamp, rife with Jeff's childhood memories but within the limits of our (read: my) personal style. Stay tuned to see the results!


Sunday, December 28, 2008

Out With the Old


For several years we've spent summers, ski-weekends, and the days following Christmas up at the family cottage. Recently, however, it was sold to a new family.  They take possession in the New Year which means everything had to be boxed-up and moved-out last week.

Since losing Jeff's Dad, the cottage has meant much less.  Really, it was a place to enjoy red wine with him, to sit by a fire and argue about politics or the economy. The place holds a lot of memories.  

I only hope pictures will suffice.


(Photo by me, Georgian Bay, December 2006)


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Ending on a Sweet Note


So, I lit a fire under my ass last night and did some last-minute baking. A perennial favourite is the oatmeal applesauce cookie with maple drizzle. I found it years ago in the Martha Stewart Cookie Magazine and have made at least 8 dozen every year since. Incredibly, they've retained their deliciousness!

There are several factors that make a recipe a good one, for me. First, of course, the taste of the item. These cookies are chewy and sweet with an apple pie meets oatmeal cookie thing happening. Second, I love a high-yield recipe. This one will make about 4 dozen good-sized sweets. Third, and perhaps most importantly, I like a recipe that is easy. This one is ridiculously simple. No need for a mixer, no wrapping in cling wrap and pre-freezing, no slicing, no finicky business. They take all of 10 minutes to prepare and even less to bake. Easy-breezy!


Apple Oats and Maple Cookies

For the cookie:

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 1/2 cups of Quaker oats
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup golden raisins

For the icing:

1 3/4 cups icing sugar
3 tablespoons maple syrup
3 tablespoons water

1) Preheat your oven to 350ºF. Mix the melted butter and sugars until combined. Add the egg and the applesauce. Mix until well-blended. Don't be too precious about it. Mix in the oats, flour, baking soda, powder and salt. Toss in the raisins.

2) Drop the dough onto parchment-lined sheets. Like Whitney and Bobby, there should be some space between them. Bake until golden and just-set, about 9 minutes - But you know your oven best. Let them cool on wire racks you've set over wax paper.

3) To make the icing mix all components. Add water as needed to turn the sticky mess into a fluid icing. Pour the mixture into a pastry bag or Ziploc, snip the tip and decorate.

Enjoy!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Ba-Humbug Lite


The last time I was sincerely excited about Christmas Nicole Kidman could conjure facial expressions.

As years go by I just can't get it up for the holidays. It's December 19th and I didn't even bake cookies this year. And I'm notorious, as far as cookies go.

I also canceled presents, much to my Mom's disappointment, I think. We only bought for our niece and nephews, because adults don't need things. The only thing anyone really needs far exceeds the predetermined budget, like a new condo or a bailout on our credit cards.

This is not to say that I'm a Scrooge - certainly not. I jam out to Barbra Streisand's hilarious version of Jingle Bells with the best of them. I just think I'm in limbo. I'm at the age where Christmas has lost that magic feeling and I'm not sure it'll come back until I have kids of my own.

But I have wonderful memories of Christmas. My sister and I were sneaky and clever, knowing all the hiding places. I'm not sure I ever received a gift I didn't know was coming. Sure, it's terrible to ruin a surprise, awful to dig to the back of your parents' closet, but, at 10, it was so worth it. I can vividly recall stealthily slicing the tape open on a mid-sized box to find the pair of brown Bluenotes cords I'd been hoping for. I tried them on before sliding them back into the box, secured with fresh tape and feigned surprise two weeks later.

For a handful of my pre-adolescent years, my grandparents came to our house on Christmas Eve so we'd all be together in the morning. My Grandma was as excited as my sister and I. The three of us could not fall sleep, though lost track of time somewhere in the night, only to be roused awake by a giddy senior at 4:30AM. Adorable. We hurried to our stockings, thrilled at a new toothbrush or trio of Bic pens.

My parents had just two rules: Do not wake them before 6 and there'd better be fresh coffee. Quite reasonable, in retrospect.

They were punctual, wrapped in robes, coffee in-hand. My Dad tidied as we went, coloured paper never overwhelming. I always played Santa, ensuring everyone had a gift. My Grandpa gathered errant bows and neatly refolded paper he deemed re-usable. My sister cracked the cover and began reading a new Bobbsey Twins immediately; I beamed, holding up a Cosby sweater, marveling at the endless acrylic rainbow and mockneck. It was all done by 6:45.

In recent years Christmas has necessarily changed. With in-laws on all sides, we divide our time democratically. Instead of hunkering down with a glass of something and the ones we love, we get in the car and do a cross-province tour, gorging on too-many-meals and not enough relaxation. No visit long enough, not even for thorough digestion. The whole season starting to feel like a series of appointments and slotted-in half-experiences.

This might have something to do with my lack of zeal.

Late last night, after at least three bottles of wine, Nick, Natasha and I decided that 2009 would be the year we do it our way. Instead of packing two days full of hasty relations, we will see each of them in a more meaningful way, perhaps three weeks early or two weeks late. No more jam-packed provincial tours, no more stomachaches on the car ride home. No more whirlwinds of obligated activity.

Our little group, the family we've chosen, will stay downtown on Christmas Day 2009. We will have a beautiful meal together. We will laugh and drink traditional beverages and drive nowhere. We will exchange thoughtful gifts of little to no value and we will love each other deeply and sincerely and with Christmas in our hearts.

Whatever the holidays bring you this year, I hope there's lots of love.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Sweet High Hopes: The Best of 2009


I eagerly await the follow-up to one of 2006's (and perhaps all-time) greatest albums. Fox Confessor Brings the Flood firmly put Neko Case on the map and secured her a place in the canon of Great American Songwriters. Hers are perfect for snowy days, an auditory fireplace or a shot of whiskey. She's a roughed-up Aimee Mann, her songs literary and dark, brief odes to various characters in utterly visual locales. You can hear every breath on the record, no editing, recorded live rather than clipped together like so many do nowadays. She hands out gorgeous, sweeping moments sparingly, rarely does she beat a dead chorus, every song leaving you wanting more.

Download "At Last", a perfect minute and a half you can listen to 1000 times on repeat.

And March 3, 2009 will bring us Middle Cyclone. Start preparing now.


Taxi to the Bright Side


So, Martha Wainwright didn't make my list for Best of 2008. Her latest, I Know You're Married, But I've Got Feelings Too, didn't strike me as hard as her self-titled debut. But she's absolutely one of my favourite artists, one of the most remarkable live performers I've ever seen.

Jory Dayne, over at Jory Dayne, brought the Black Cab Sessions to my attention. A British troupe of music lovers snag artists they adore and have them perform one stripped down song in the cab as they cruise around London. Martha, among many others, are showcased in this really lovely way. Head over and check it out.


Friday, December 12, 2008

2009, Oh So Close


As I get older, time has started going so fast. Remember when we were tiny children and 8 weeks of summer vacation felt like a lifetime? I can practically sleep through 8 weeks nowadays.

I can't believe I'm seeing year-end lists. Are we there already?

Blender Magazine released its list of the 33 Best Albums of 2008. Strange timing, as some of the year's hottest releases are just coming out now (Beyoncé, Kanye, Britney) and I must say, there are some odd picks listed. I already expressed my feelings about Coldplay's Viva la Vida, and the rundown also includes Deathcab's latest (Narrow Stairs) which has got to be the least exciting release in recent years, Santogold's hit-and-miss self-titled, and Katy Perry's vapid attempt at "edge". No Estelle, no Aimee Mann, no Adele or Duffy even and they're the poster girls for 2008. I was happy, however, to see appearances by Robyn, Hot Chip, and Jenny Lewis. Rollingstone put out their list this week, a far more diverse list, everyone from Ne-Yo to Stephen Malkmus represented.

Here's my year-end roundup.

Kicking off 2008, a quirky Australian released her third album, Some People Have Real Problems. Save for a couple of tracks ("Academia" and lyrical-cringe-city "Little Black Sandals") Sia Furler doesn't miss with her mix of Sinead O'Connor wailing and organic, lush arrangements. Standouts are "You Have Been Loved" and "Lentil". I spent all of our trip to Mexico on the beach, her songs blasting in my ears.

The UK seems to be a breeding ground for the Old School Chanteuse, with Amy Winehouse, Duffy, and Adele making a mark this year. The latter has hit me the hardest with a fantastic album and even greater live performances (Conan, SNL, Ellen, to name a few). The whole record could have been a capella, her voice so incredible on its own. Listen to her version of Dylan's "Make You Feel My Love" and try not to plan a wedding around it.

Much of the spring was given up to one album, Estelle's Shine. "American Boy" was one of the hottest singles of the year and it took a surprisingly long time to get sick of. A near-perfect album (my skip buttons entirely ignored), they managed to produce a current record with just the right touches of old-school. In a year of throw-backs and vintage sounds, Shine walked a careful balance.

If ever the word "fierce" was an apt description, Sam Sparro's self-titled debut never hurt a party. There's not a whole lot to say about it. Standouts: "Black and Gold" and the sass-loaded secret song "Still Hungry".

Hercules and Love Affair fit somewhere into this category, though slightly more cerebral. Antony Hegarty (of and the Johnsons) provides his special brand of vocals on these amazing disco-inspired dance songs.

Canadian pianist and DJ, Gonzales (AKA Jason Beck) is a friend and collaborator of Feist, among others. He opened for her at Massey Hall last year and I was blown away by his amazing skills and quirk-factor. I bought his 2004 album Solo Piano at that show and awaited more. He released Soft Power this year, a sort-of 70s era piano-pop album. At times harkening the Bee Gees, early Elton John, and some Billy Joel, it's perfect for a quiet dinner party.

An album with roots as far back as 2006, Robyn's self-titled international blockbuster really came to life in North America in 2008. I wrote thoroughly about it in May and it's one I continuously go back to. If I had to choose, it might be the album of the year.

Since discovering her in Magnolia, Aimee Mann hasn't disappointed. She released, perhaps, her greatest album to-date this year; the perfectly titled @#%&*! Smilers brought just enough of the concept angle from her previous The Forgotten Arm, and mixed it with her classic stand-alone storytelling. She gets better with age, her voice deepening the way of Joni Mitchell. If you haven't climbed onboard yet, start with 1993's "4th of July" (from the albu, Whatever) and go from there.

Summer brought us She & Him. Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward put their heads together to create what could be a one-off lark if it weren't for the title, Volume I. They've had massive success with the album, touring constantly and gathering fans all over North America. Definitely part of that throw-back category, this beach party doowop record never feels forced or inauthentic.

Speaking of, Jenny Lewis released the much-anticipated follow-up to her first solo album, Rabbit Fur Coat. The Rilo Kiley frontwoman turned a corner and left behind a pile of gimmicks on Acid Tongue. "Tryin' My Best" is one of the greatest songs of the year and wouldn't sound out of place on a Dusty Springfield record.

An album I keep going back to is Martina Topley-Bird's The Blue God. It reminds me of an electronic version of Emily Haines' (Metric) solo material. It's not perfect and hasn't drawn me in completely, but it's atmospheric and perfect for a cocktail party.

Jazmine Sullivan's first album Fearless was released in September. Some kind of mix between Lauryn Hill and Alicia Keys, she's only twenty-one and under the wing of Missy Elliot. Another album where the skip button goes unused.

A couple of late-2008 discoveries have made a massive impression in very little time. Ray LaMontagne (where have I been?) has been around a while, producing slightly-Southern-sounding folk rock. His whisky-soaked vocals are lived-in and gorgeous. Fleet Foxes made #11 on Rollingstone's Albums of the Year prompting me to say "Who?!", which led to a quick download, and then constant play for the last several days. It might seem premature, but I'm putting them on my list. Something about them takes me back to days spent in the back of my parents' car, the local soft rock station playing CCR and Chicago. Iron and Wine comes to mind too. Wall-of-sound harmonies and swelling music. Works for me.

I know it's just an EP, but 5 tracks from him are better than 12 from almost anyone else: Antony and the Johnson's New World EP is fantastic. "Another World" is a beautiful, quiet meditation on global warming. Or about anything, really.

Rachael Yamagata finally released her sophomore album this year, Elephants . . . Teeth Sinking Into Heart. Her first album, Happenstance, is, perhaps, the most-played album in my entire collection. The follow-up was divided into two parts: the typical RY stuff on the first: melancholy, sweeping songs about love, and then more upbeat, rockier songs on the second part. Needless to say, I don't listen to that back-bit very much. Luckily it's a 2:1.

An admission: I'm an Alanis Morissette fan. Like, a real fan. Like, I read message boards and anticipate releases months and months in advance. She really divides people. Mostly to the side that find her incredibly irritating. I do not, but I see where you're coming from. Her new album Flavours of Entanglement (yes, annoying, I know) is actually good. Perhaps because it's hot on the heels of her breakup with Ryan Reynolds (hubba-hubba) and some of that rage people can't seem to let go of is back. Guy Sigsworth (Madonna, Imogen Heap, Robyn) is to thank, surely, for his production. Electronic and sometimes-epic, the album is cohesive and dynamic in a way she isn't always.

Wrapping up my list is Kanye West and his divisive 808s & Heartbreaks. I wrote about it recently, so will keep this short. If he wants to be the voice of a generation, I think an album like this will get him there. No one makes an impact by producing the same great album over and over again. A departure like this may be remembered by some as a great mistake, but history may reveal it as his own Sgt. Pepper.

Who made your list?


Saturday, December 6, 2008

These Roving Eyes


A blog I've recently discovered, Hollister Hovey, is constantly showcasing lovely things. Art and culture and even Bergdorf Goodman's Christmas windows. A recent post about her job in the medical field included several Dutch paintings depicting old-timey autopsies. I found one strangely sexy.

Head over to this great blog for lots of interesting tidbits.


Friday, December 5, 2008

Black, White, and Read All Over


I recently dug up a bunch of high school stuff. Essays and journals, photos, and several editions of our school newspaper. Sandi and I wrote an entertainment column, The Buzz With S & J. It's pretty sassy, as you can probably imagine.

In the memory of my life, I was proud of being the smart kid, but it seems, in dredging up these periodicals, it was all relative. Turns out I went to a school for retarded teen runaways, or some such thing. 99% of the stories in this paper are just atrocious! Among Zagat-inspired summaries of chic eateries (Subway and Wendy's) one person reviewed Nicole Kidman's 1995 sleeper-hit, To Die For. Allow me to illustrate the depth of this critique: "If you like flashbacks, Nicole Kidman, and a good movie, then this one's for you!" I, for one, hate a good movie.

But it was nice to be reminded that Operation Dumbo Drop was the 25th highest grossing film that summer, coming in behind The Bridges of Madison County and Dangerous Minds.


Our column, The Buzz, was a hard-hitting, pull-no-punches breakdown of the month in entertainment news. We were a couple of brassy 10th graders who discussed the birth of little Lourdes Maria Ciccone Leon with ease and we reported on Ellen's historic coming out, proclaiming "It's the 90s and this should be accepted!" On the pop-culture-pulse, we slammed Michael Jackson: "What is it that attracts Debbie Rowe? Is it his rugged good looks, his good nature with children? We have to wonder who will take on breast-feeding duties and how much time MJ will spend next to the crib at night." Shockingly, our staff advisors allowed a couple of 15 year olds to print molestation jokes.

I don't think we knew how good we had it.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Monday, December 1, 2008

My Best Friends' Wedding


The apostrophe in that title is critical. On Saturday Nick and Natasha got married. Like for-reals married. Nearly 300 humans gathered in one place to celebrate it. It really happened. Three days later, I feel like I've been hit with a sledgehammer. The culprit: well, gin, first of all. But also that post-amazing haze, that melancholic aftermath, like Boxing Day. All the gearing-up, all the planning, all the talking about it for so long. And now it's over. It's something like sadness, really. Or perhaps just residual emotions running over with nowhere to put them.

It was a perfect day. Bookmarked by rain and grey skies, Saturday was bright and warm. The streets were dry, with no fear of splashing dirty sleet-water on our suit pants. The sky was blue and yellow, streaked with orange. It felt more like October than nearly-December.

She took the word stunning, bitch-slapped it, and gave it a new name. She walked down the aisle to "At Last", the Etta James version, of course, her small Italian babbo so proud. Hair in loose curls, red lips, a little hat and veil. And he was so handsome. Somehow, at almost-30, just finally starting to look like a man. Married. Married!

The first dance wasn't traditional. Choreographed to Chris Brown's "Forever", they tore up the floor, hot tamale train indeed. There were belly dancers. The Lion's Den of Iranian Men consumed all the tequila in the first 30 minutes and the Italians took care of the food. I heard so many people call it the best wedding they'd ever attended. I concur. The greatest day.

Some Fancy Pageant Walkin'


I've seen nearly every episode of Saturday Night Live since I was allowed to stay up that late. I've been a loyal fan, even through the inexplicable Norm MacDonald period. I was watching when Sinead O'Connor tore that photo. I was watching when a wide-eyed Molly Shannon debuted Mary-Catherine Gallagher. And I was watching when the broadcast was interrupted and Princess Diana was pulled from the car in Paris.

But it was at the turn of the century that things really took off. Tina Fey came out of the writing room and got behind the Weekend Update desk with Jimmy Fallon. I've loved her from the start, this is not bandwagonning.

While I've always loved celebrity culture (I watched Entertainment Tonight while my friends played video games or hung out behind the Catholic school), I'm not necessarily obsessed. I don't really care about meeting famous people and don't finagle my way into film festival parties. But, I want nothing more than to be close, personal friends with Tina Fey.

There is no one funnier. She's smart and deeply nerdy. Her infamous impression of Sarah Palin brought SNL its highest ratings in 15 years. She's relevant in a way that no one else is with all her fingers on the comic pulse of a certain kind of somebody - that blend of biting sarcasm and satire my generation loves so hard. She stood beside John McCain days before the biggest election in history and lambasted his running mate. And I think he liked it. She's charming in an old school way, able to get away with anything.

And then there's 30 Rock. Surreal in all the right ways, outrageous, yet classic and throw-backy, like looking into a funhouse mirror of vintage New York studio life. It's not a hit, even after the Palin thing and her household-name-status, but that's the beauty - It's not for everyone. It runs with Family Guy with wild cut-aways and obscure pop culture references and my biggest fear is an executive-ordered watering-down of Fey's genius in a desperate attempt for ratings. I'd rather see the show go the way of Arrested Development than lose its winking, inside-joke brand of humour. Each episode pushing a little further into Fey's zany geek brain. Alec Baldwin has never been better. The world is a better place with Kenneth in it. Million-watt guest stars (Jennifer Aniston, Oprah, Steve Martin) and Jane Krakowski in black face. I cannot. get. enough.

Click the image to read the fantastic new interview in Vanity Fair. And if you're the type who should be watching 30 Rock, get to it.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Best News I've Heard All Day


I'm big into movies that air on Sunday afternoons. Some of my personal faves are Baby Boom, Sister Act, and Corrina, Corrina. As far as I'm concerned, there's no better way to spend a rainy day than curled up with something from the 80s.

So, how could I not have an excited moment when I read that Steve Guttenberg, Ted Danson, and Tom Selleck are in talks to produce another Three Men movie. Apparently it's gonna be called Three Men and a Bride! Coming to a Sunday afternoon near you, someday.

Monday, November 24, 2008

808s and Heartbreak


Back when Coldplay's new album was released critics and bloggers tossed around a lot of $3 words like "revolutionary" and "huge departure". While I enjoy Viva la Vida, I do not think it's groundbreaking work in the slightest. It's more of the same sappy, sweeping pop rock from a band who does it well. Kanye West's new album, 808s and Heartbreak, comes out tomorrow. And a departure it certainly is.

Back in September his first single was released and it got me really excited. The thing about anticipation, however, is its affiliation with disappointment. After listening to 808s for the last several days, I'm happy to say it's held up, Li'l Wayne's heinous affectations notwithstanding. And it's a new direction for him, leaving behind some of the arrogant showboating and scathing exposés of his rap-industry brethren. It's deeply personal and downright depressive. In the year-or-so since his last album, he lost his infamous Mama and his fiancé, and it shows. Not since Alanis called out Uncle Joey has there been so much talk of heartbreak and pre-teen metaphors of winter and its coldness.

On last night's American Music Awards, Kanye performed his new single "Heartless", and he did it in the raw. He was a bit unhinged and edgy, but it seemed less staged than usual. Vulnerability isn't his strong suit, but perhaps after a year like that one he's decided to let his guard down. What with less rap and more singing, he seems to be laying himself bare.

Speaking of, there's been a lot of talk of AutoTune and it's abundance on the record. I guess something Cher used more freely than leather and lace isn't often considered artful. And if it weren't for a rich and melodic backdrop, I could see the vocal-device being a distraction. But for all the robotic and glitchy vocals, there are heavy drums (courtesy of the Roland TR-808) choirs, strings and a great turn from Toronto's own Esthero (who co-wrote three songs - cha-ching!) All in all, the album reads as fairly organic, considering Kanye isn't a singer and I can't imagine very many actual instruments were employed. It might be a testament to West's charisma and raw talent. He's nothing if not passionate, and that comes through, no matter how robotic the voice. If this is a vanity project, I can only hope he retains some of the vulnerability on future releases.


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Off The Radar


Where in the world have I been? I've got so little to say these days, it seems. I've been working on a new hairstyle. Out with the old. I'll be appearing in a wedding (not my own) in one week and was thinking I needed a change. So I'm going for the 50s style, side-parted, slicked down thing. I even bought a tube of Brylcreem yesterday. I look like I did when I was 7.

That is all.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga!


I'm not sure I've ever mentioned my deep love of Kate Winslet. Need I say more?

(Vanity Fair, December 2008)

Friday, October 31, 2008

Lamp It Up


I know I've been a terrible blogger. The seasons have changed and it seems I can't get out of bed before noon. The floors are cold, but the duvet is so warm. And I've been lazy, lazy, lazy.

But my lamp project is complete. After scouring the city for suitable shades, I came to realize that no one sells them. Even a store focused entirely on lamps didn't sell shades. So, it came time for my annual trek to Restoration Hardware. I avoid this store, as it makes me want nothing more than a palatial home in Forest Hill and a summer spot in Connecticut. I want overpriced soap and fourteen Christmas trees with coordinating baubles on every branch. I want to put brushed nickel knobs on everything, just because they're so pretty.

Each fall they have their annual lighting sale. Up to 30% off on all their fixtures, lamps and shades. Although I was hoping for something very dramatic (like eggplant or glossy black) I had to settle on the Silver Sage Drum Shade. At a reasonable $35 each, they are beautifully made and very elegant. I ordered them online and they arrived in just seven days. Colour me impressed!

Because I had hoped for total drama with the shades, I knew I'd need to jazz them up somehow. I searched the internet endlessly for some cloisonné finials (like this one, which wouldn't ship to Canada!) but stumbled upon these little brass monkeys which were perfect. I'm pretty pleased with the whole outfit - It's just the hit of glamour our living room needed, with the right bit of quirk in those little monkeys.


(click the photo to enlarge)

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Night at the Oprah


I was raised on television. Not by television, but, rather, it was a big part of my life. I watched a lot, everything from Saved by the Bell to National Geographic to hours of the Home Shopping Channel. I credit television with most of the general knowledge I have in my brain. From world politics to stain removal, the corners of my mind are stuffed with needless information. Jeff always marvels at the range of topics I'm able to discuss. I don't strive to remember that John Tesh eats his Corn Flakes with water instead of milk, I just happen to. But Jeff didn't grow up watching television, so he thinks it's all useless. I, on the other hand, think that a discerning viewer can learn a lot.

It should come as no surprise that I'm an Oprah fan. I've been watching for nearly as long as she's been on the air. As a kid I'd come home from school, get a snack together, and saddle-up to the television, a borderline religious ritual that has remained to this day. I get that she's bat-shit-crazy, but I just love her. Almost as often as I daydream about accepting my Oscar®, I fantasize about appearing on her show, chatting like old friends. I'll ask about Stedman and we'll laugh and laugh.

I know what you're thinking: Oh god, but she's ridiculous! She's so self-righteous and preachy, so annoying and self-satisfied! I know. And I too cringe at her foibles, her near-sociopathic ability to interrupt others and that bellowing! But, like any good demi-God, she draws me in and makes me feel warm inside. Pimping authenticity to the masses, her do-gooding is undeniable. Dr. Phil and singing her own theme song notwithstanding, she's played a clean game, the O brand nearly spotless.

A Chicago blogger, Robyn Okrant, is ten months into a year-long project where she lives every one of Oprah's whims. When Oprah says jump, she says in which $400 pair of shoes. When she recommends (read: implores) that you "must have" ergonomically-correct gardening tools, Robyn fetches a set right away. She's documenting the entire thing on her blog, Living Oprah, a clever social experiment about the price we pay our icons, literally and figuratively. She wonders if she'll truly find happiness if she commits to Oprah's "Live your Best Life" ideals. So far she's spent 600 hours and over $3000 trying. Take a read, it's awfully interesting.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Real Slim Shady


I've got a new project. Yesterday we went to Stouffville to pack up some more stuff. Jeff's brother and his wife are moving into the house, so most of the contents are receiving the old "keep, toss, donate" treatment. We got a set of silverware (lovely and old school with some family history) some pots, and these two gorgeous marble lamps.

The shades that were on them previously were quickly added to the "toss" pile. Now we need to find something that works. I'm thinking shiny, satin gunmetal grey. Perhaps a rectangular shade, or a tall, narrow drum. Or perhaps black. Something dramatic and a bit glamorous. I've put a call out to the folks at Apartment Therapy for reader-insights, so I'll keep you posted!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Apple, Peach and Pear Crisp


I made my first crisp today.  Apples, peaches and pears sucker punched by cinnamon and buried under oats, sugar, and butter.  There's really no way this could fail.  After 35 minutes in the oven, the fruits were soft to the fork, but the topping wasn't very brown or carmelized.  Lacking the integral crisp, it was more like an apple, peach and pear semi.  I cranked on the broiler and let the oats and sugar get nice and crunchy before pulling the sweet beauty out.  Topped with vanilla ice cream, it's like the BBQ peach I made in August, but amped up.


Apple, Peach and Pear Crisp

Filling:
2 apples, peeled and diced
1 pear, peeled and diced
1 peach, peels and diced
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 cup water

Topping:
1 cup oats
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
½ cup melted butter

1) Peel your fruits, dice and sprinkle them with brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and the water.
2) Combine the remaining dry ingredients in a separate bowl; add melted butter and mix until crumbly.  Lick your fingers!  It's amazing.
3) Pour your fruit into a 9X9 pan and sprinkle crumb mixture on top of the fruit.  Bake at 375°F for 30-40 minutes or until the fruit is tender.  Note: Inexplicably, I don't have a square pan so I used two 9X4 inch loaf pans.  This worked just fine!

Fall On Your Knees and Slurp


With a potato masher in one hand and a fresh supply of Vitamin D in the other, I officially ushered-in my favourite of all seasons: fall.  The weather has shifted, that icky-sticky all but gone from the air.  Leaves are changing, ever so slightly, and sweaters have replaced sweating.  I love it!

And what better way to ring in the new season than with a tried-and-true soup recipe.  Like Fred and Ginger before them, carrots and ginger go together like nothing else.  This creamy smooth soup is delicious with a great meal, or on its own for lunch.  And, if you know me, you know I can't stand a recipe with more than 5 ingredients.  Who's got that kind of time?  This takes less than an hour and smells-up your house deliciously.

Carrot Ginger Soup

2 tablespoons of butter
1 onion, chopped
1 stalk of celery, chopped
1 medium potato, chopped
5½ cups chopped carrots
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger root
1½ quarts chicken stock (1o cups)
7 tablespoons whipping cream
a good pinch of nutmeg
salt, pepper

1) Melt the butter in a large pot.  Add the onions and celery and allow them to soften for 5 minutes or so. 

2) Stir in the potato, carrots, ginger, and stock.  Bring to a boil.  Lower the heat, cover, and allow to cook for 20 minutes.  (Full disclosure: I use baby carrots.  They require no cleaning or chopping and measure out so easily.  It takes exactly one large bag to make this recipe.  I feel no shame.)

3) Pour the soup into a food processor or blender and puree until smooth.  Return the soup to the pot through a strainer to ensure ultimate smoothness.  Stir in the cream, nutmeg, salt and pepper.  Serve some and jar the rest for easy lunches.

  

The Whole Wide World


I have a thing for maps and globes.  Always have.  I could sit for hours with my atlas marveling at the tables and charts along the margins, wondering how so many people could fit into such small places.  I remember when I discovered that Spain was in Europe and not South America.  I remember when the U.S.S.R. turned into Russia and its tiny,  consonant-laden bits and pieces.  I loved colouring maps, the best countries were mid-sized, pressing hard with my pencil crayons along their borders and shading lightly their fleshy centers.  To this day I could spend days searching, but now with the added bonus of Google Maps and detailed satellite imaging.  

I got a new globe yesterday, and I think I'm in love.  It was $10 and is a strange size.  Globes the size of volleyballs are fairly common, but this one is smaller, perhaps comparable to a cantaloupe or a child's skull.  It's colours are rich and vintagey.  The equator has been fastened down in a couple of places, the tape yellowing.  These are the things that make me happy.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Sing a Song For Me


It seems I'm only updating about one thing these days. Well, there's a lot going on right now in the sweet, sweet world of music.

A couple of years ago, Jenny Lewis (lead singer of Rilo Kiley and little-known member of the Troop Beverly Hills) went the way of Gwen Stefani and Beyonce®: solo. She billed herself just above a duo called The Watson Twins on her first foray, Rabbit Fur Coat in 2006. While great and listenable, this album felt a bit forced, a bit gimmicky. On her new CD, Acid Tongue, it seems she has settled-in as a solo artist. On songs like "Tryin' My Best" and the title track she channels the old school white soul artists that inspire her. There's a twangy Patsy Cline tone there too. It never verges on the one-off vanity album vibe (like the excellent Volume One from She & Him) and feels entirely genuine. I'll be listening all winter long.



My music-consuming patterns are often very seasonal. You won't hear a ton of dance beats between November and March through my headphones. To the constant dismay of my boyfriend, my winter playlist includes dreary and drippy songs with lots of strings and wailing vocals. I live for this stuff.

Topping the list this winter is Antony and the Johnsons' new album, The Crying Light. A sneak-EP will released on October 7th, but you can get the first single, "Another World" here. It's a stark and creepy song about, among other things, climate change. If you know anything at all about Antony Hegarty (lead singer and sometimes-strange bird) you know that he sounds like an avant-garde Nina Simone who sings seemingly simple songs about gender and family. Friends and collaborators include everyone from Rufus Wainwright and Nico Muhly to Lou Reed, Bjork and the Euro-disco-dance-machine Hercules and Love Affair. Some people laugh when they hear him, but I do not.

Another album about to drop is the long-awaited sophomore release from Rachael Yamagata. I hate to categorize or oversimplify music, but for the sake of description she falls into that Fiona Apple slot. Girl at a piano. Moody and introspective. But she does it with well, unlike, say, millions of other sad girls. She is an artist I listen to year-round, every year, constantly. Her songs are poetic, but straightforward. Melancholy without being whiny or immature. She is honest and alarmingly candid. In "Even So" (from 2004's Happenstance) she writes about cheating on her boyfriend and says, "For I love you like you'll never let yourself be loved again," succinctly breaking the heart of every listener. Her second album promises some of the same, and with a second disc of more rollicking material, something new too.



Thursday, September 11, 2008

Nobody's Daughter


While we're discussing musical genius, I thought I'd mention my potentially-surprising adoration of Courtney Love.

Sandi and I listened to a lot of Hole in high school. We watched her go from grunge rock idol to respected actress to designer-muse and back again. She had hits and misses, musically, like the massively popular Celebrity Skin and the commercial bomb that was America's Sweetheart. The former is one of those albums that floods my mind with memories of adolescence, thinking back on the amazing cover of "Malibu" Sandi performed with our school's rock band.

Head over to her MySpace where she's streaming three great new songs. There's something about them that was missing from her first solo album, 2004's America's Sweetheart. There's an old-school swagger and a confidence that doesn't cross the line into egomaniacal crazy-talk. It's amped-up folk-rock, somehow. For the first time in a while, I'm excited to see what she's got going on when Nobody's Daughter is released in early 2009.

'Til We Lose Control, System Overload


Kanye West is at it again. He performed a new song on the recent MTV Music Video Awards called "Love Lockdown". It was one of those great performances, all lights and live drumming and pomposity. I loved it.

Click the image to download this song. It's kind of dark and unlike stuff he's done before, and it gets me real excited for his new album, expected before the end of 2008.













In a recent post I wrote about the plight of the gay man, how we often yearn to be macho in ways we aren't. David commented "That is the great unspoken truth of modern homosexuality -- the silent, internal distrust of our masculinity." But I have to wonder, am I past attempting this gender sleight-of-hand? When did I stop trying to pretend or modify my behaviour?

As years go by, I fake it less and less. I don't attempt to play sports a) because I can't, and b) because I don't care to. There was a time when I'd pretend to enjoy a round of basketball or a quick trip to the hardware store. I felt it was my duty, as a boy, to find joy in these things.  I do not feel that need anymore.  I admit, though, I sometimes find myself altering the way I walk when I'm in small towns or stores that sell auto parts.  It's deep-seated, this quelling of flamboyance. I might slump my shoulders a bit, or toss a hitch in my gait implying a football injury from high school. And when I catch myself doing these subconscious things, I often get resentful, instead tossing my hair or cocking a wrist, just to prove I'm not ashamed.

Coming out was as much that thing as television and movies make it out to be. While I try not to over dramatize such events, it certainly did change my life. Suddenly I wasn't a boy trying to pass as straight and I could do the things I'd always been compelled to do but stopped myself just this side of jazz hands. Like wearing fitted clothes. And sitting with one leg draped over the other. And copping to an adoration of Broadway and Nicole Kidman's shoes. It was so freeing to finally be what I so obviously was.

Perhaps when a gay boy inevitably comes out of the closet, the pink elephant in the room takes up residence there.

I grew up in a house where phrases like "toughen up" and "don't be so sensitive" were fairly common. For some reason, we don't like it when our boys have emotions.  My sister now has two boys of her own and we talk about these sort of gender issues all the time. How amazing it is that anyone would discourage "sensitivity", though it happens constantly. We are, as a people, obsessed with our centuries-old gender roles.  What a shame we can't be well-rounded people with traits of all kinds, masculine and feminine combined.  

2008 marks my full acceptance of myself.  Not only do I walk how I walk, say the word "fabulous" without hesitation, and cry openly during commercials, but this coming November I will proudly attend our best friends' wedding as the Maid of Honor.  I'd like to think I'm doing it like Patrick Dempsey, but know it'll come off more like Rupert Everett.  I'm okay with that, I'm gonna do it my way.  I might not go as far as having ringlets ironed into my hair, but I'll definitely cry when I help Natasha into her dress.  I'll spend the night adjusting her hair so it's just right.  And when she throws a bouquet I will join that group of girls and I will slaughter them.  I'm next, bitches, so step off.




Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Notes on Aging


Just briefly, I want to tell you about two new and unwelcome traits that have befallen me. Suddenly in the past six weeks I've become an allergy sufferer (ragweed, I assume) and, apparently, now I'm someone who wakes up at dawn with the unshakeable need to pee. Either I've got diabetes, or my bladder is aging at a rapid rate and cannot keep it together. Either way, I'm not happy about this.

Who have I become?


Monday, September 8, 2008

GLBT on Multigrain or Transamerica's Next Top Model


If ever there was a guilty pleasure, it is the hot-mess trainwreck known as ANTM. Tonight was the 2-hour season premiere of America's Next Top Model, Cycle 11.

Be assured, I want so desperately to hate Tyra Banks. She's one of the most ridiculous people in all of popular culture. Her desperate attempts to be nü-Oprah, her over-the-top emotional outbursts (see: "I have never yelled at a girl like this!") and her heavy, scratchy wigs. She's absolutely infuriating. But when she starts coaching the models, I just cannot deny her talent. She knows how to model. She can smile with her eyes like nobody's business. When she wants someone to exhibit aggressive despair, she can demonstrate. The only real error in her ways is the misguided belief that these skills are credit towards a PhD in human psychology. She's a deeply-disturbed megalomaniac after all, so you get what you pay for.

With each new crop of wannabe models, she ups the ante somehow. A few "cycles" ago it was the ultra-controversial "plus-sized model", tearing up the scales at a monstrous 140 lbs. At every opportunity she made all normal-sized women everywhere feel plus-sized, and considering the percentage of Americans who are downright morbidly obese, I can't imagine this had a great affect on her viewers' confidence.

What next, you ask? What part of our culture can she exploit now? How about the transgendered.

I thought this would be the perfect time to sound-off on something that has bothered me for years. This might not be news, but I'm a homosexual. (In fact, Albert Schultz - Canadian actor and overlord of my professional life - once announced to my colleagues that my astrological sign is the little-known "fagatarius". Human Rights Lawsuit pending.) But however homosexual I may be, I resent the term "GLBT" - Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered.

Why, oh why, are transgendered people lumped-in with the gays? Sexuality is not a gender issue. I understand this confusion, but fear it only perpetuates an idea that is simply untrue.

Below I will dispel some myths and let you know what isn't cool.

1) Gay men do not want to be women, we only covet their extensive footwear options.

2) We have no interest in removing our penises. In fact we, as a people, hold them in very high regard, perhaps even more than the average straight male.

3) Feminizing a gay man can be highly offensive. Unless you know this person well, do not refer to a gay man as "girlfriend", "missy", or "sister". Or "Mary". For the love of god, do not call me Mary.

4) Never ask a gay couple: "Sooooo, which one of you is like the woman?" Profoundly offensive. I've been asked this question dozens of times. It would be like randomly asking a black couple which one of them drives the getaway car.

5) It doesn't mean your son is a transsexual if he wants to play with Barbies® or crimp his sister's hair. He's definitely gay, though.

6) On top of having no interest in being a woman, the average gay man yearns to be macho and manly in ways we rarely are. The highest compliment you can pay a gay man is: "I totally thought you were straight for the first 6 months I knew you!" So satisfying.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This blog, in no way, represents a lack of respect, admiration or support for people who are transgendered. Also, I do not want to take credit for the hilarious renaming, Transamerica's Next Top Model. That goes to Brian who is back from his time in Australia and southeast Asia, where he did not have sexual reassignment surgery to become a ladyman. He was tempted.


Friday, September 5, 2008

Blogs and Black Bananas


Another blog I frequent daily is Orangette.  It's written by a supercharming girl named Molly in Seattle.  She writes about food, but cleverly buries her recipes and tips into fantastic stories about her life.  

I've been reading for more than a year, but until today hadn't tried any of her recipes.  I'm a sucker for banana bread and the one she wrote about last week paired well with the blackening fruit on my countertop.  

Molly suggests lining your pan with parchment and I couldn't be happier with this tip!  Isn't it cute, all Little House on the Prairie rustic?  I bet a yummy muffin would love to be wrapped in parchment rather than those tacky pastel liners!  You could just put the whole still-warm muffin pan out on the buffet for your next brunch.  Charm-city, USA!  



Banana Bread with Cinnamon Crumble Topping
(as adapted by Molly of Orangette from Bon Appétit, September 2008)

For the bread:
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 cup mashed ripe banana (about 3 medium bananas)
2 large eggs
½ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup honey
¼ cup water

For topping:
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
2½ Tbsp. packed dark brown sugar

Preheat to 350°F.
Spray your 9x5 inch pan lightly and line with parchment.

In a medium bowl whisk together your dry ingredients.  In a larger bowl whisk together the wet.  Mix the dry into the wet.  In a small bowl mix together your topping components.  Pour and scrape the batter into the load pan lined with parchment.  Sprinkle the topping evenly over the batter.  Bake until a tester comes out clean.  It took 45 minutes in my oven.  Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack before slicing.  

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Why We Tell Stories


So, the world wide web is quite the place. We've all fallen into a Wiki hole or gone searching for a Golden Girls clip on YouTube only to end up, hours later, watching a brunette Alabaman perform her own home birth. Or something. It can be a long and winding road. One can slip into the same kind of chain reaction in the vast and varied world of blogs.

If I'm reading about drapes or custom-tailored suits from French Guiana, I often link to other people's little corner of the universe. I've stumbled upon many which have entered my daily check list. Just a few days ago a young man from Utah commented on my blog. I can't tell for certain, but there was a familiarity to his comment, as if he'd been reading for months and decided today would be the day he'd say something. I've been there, lurking in the shadows, reading at my leisure. And then, one day, I think to myself, "I should say something. She doesn't even know I'm here!"

His comment, of course, led me to his blog, a mix of the thoughtful and the whimsical, the deep and the very shallow. I like it. He posted a lovely poem, and I generally do not enjoy poetry. But it reminds me of my sister, one of my favourite storytellers. And perhaps it sums up why people have blogs, which at times seem so insurmountably narcissistic.

So, like he before me, I will post this poem for you to read.

Why We Tell Stories

Lise Mueller

1
Because we used to have leaves
and on damp days
our muscles feel a tug,
painful now, from when roots
pulled us into the ground

and because our children believe
they can fly, an instinct retained
from when the bones in our arms
were shaped like zithers and broke
neatly under their feathers

and because before we had lungs
we knew how far it was to the bottom
as we floated open-eyed
like painted scarves through the scenery
of dreams, and because we awakened

and learned to speak

2
We sat by the fire in our caves,
and because we were poor, we made up a tale
about a treasure mountain
that would open only for us

and because we were always defeated,
we invented impossible riddles
only we could solve,
monsters only we could kill,
women who could love no one else
and because we had survived
sisters and brothers, daughters and sons,
we discovered bones that rose
from the dark earth and sang
as white birds in the trees

3
Because the story of our life
becomes our life

Because each of us tells
the same story
but tells it differently

and none of us tells it
the same way twice

Because grandmothers looking like spiders
want to enchant the children
and grandfathers need to convince us
what happened happened because of them

and though we listen only
haphazardly, with one ear,
we will begin our story
with the word and


Docking, For Beginners


My boyfriend Jeff loves him some electronics. Be it surround sound speakers or a GPS system in the car, he's a sucker for expensive gadgets. (That being said, we're still watching television through a tube and I'm typing this on a 16GB computer. I'm pretty sure my ninth grade scientific calculator was more sophisticated than that.) We're not the Rockefellers, afterall, so we can't have it all.

We recently celebrated 5 years as a couple. This warrants a bit of spending, no? Jeff came home with the one item we've been talking about for years. The Bose Sound Dock. We listen to a lot of music and we entertain a lot. Last summer we bought outdoor speakers from the Home Depot. They were very cheap and sounded terrible, but we wanted music on our back patio. And every summer we go to the cottage and sit on the deck out near the water. We've attempted to drag a stereo speaker out across the lawn, wires trailing, becoming hazardous as the aforementioned mojitos start flying. We've always known the best option would be the compact, high-quality Bose. An iPod could hold our entire collection and we could travel the world with our own little jukebox.

The new generation Sound Dock is portable. Wireless! Rechargeable lithium ion! This pretty much sealed the deal. The battery lasts for hours, charges quickly, and the sound is better than ever. A ghetto blaster for a new generation. Small enough to rest on your shoulder while pimping hoes and convenient enough to take out to the deck on a holiday Monday.

25°C, Georgian Bay, Chelsea Handler's best-selling Are You There Vodka, It's Me Chelsea. Add some music and a snappy gin-based-beverage and I can't think of a better way to spend a day.



All Shall Know the Wonder of Purple Summer


If you're anything like me, you like to drink in the afternoon.  Especially when you're at the cottage for the last weekend of the rainiest summer on record.  There's a compulsive need to pack the days full.  As dusk rolls in at 4:30, you run circles in the grass, pleading with the sun to stay, just a little longer. Swinging madly in the hammock, it feels more like a marathon of activity than it does relaxation.  But that's what Labour Day Weekend is all about.  Packing it in.

This means, to make the most of your day, you've got to get your chores done early.  With mint growing in every ditch from here to Saskatchewan, it also means you might be too far gone on mojitos to prepare dinner with a clear head.  I find the best way to combat this is pre-emptive prepping.  Get everything you can possibly get done out of the way before the booze and wine flows at cocktail hour.  Or at noon.  Or whenever yesterday's hangover subsides.  

I'd be hard-pressed to find something that can't be cooked on a barbeque.  Some things, though, like green beans, asparagus, and finely chopped herbs and spices, are too small and fall beneath the grill to a charbroiled death.  This is why God (and Dollarama) made pre-formed tinfoil trays in various shapes and sizes. Good for cooking the hard-to-cook, and also for the early preparation.  Sturdier than a simple tinfoil wrap, these little packs of delight are easy to handle, easy to serve from and totally reusable!  



A bit of oil, some chopped rosemary, 30 minutes on the grill, and voila!  We always do our green beans this way in the summer.  Never has a bean tasted so good than sizzled in olive oil above a smoky flame.  This weekend I also cut the kernels from three cobs of corn, added heaps of butter, salt, and pepper, and used one of these trays to steam the whole thing right on the grill.  Try it while you still have time!


Sunday, August 31, 2008

Peachy Keen, Thanks For Asking


I was a very picky child. In fact, I was a very picky adolescent and young adult. Until about 5 years ago, I'd never tasted many basic foods. I'll save myself the shame of listing them here, but suffice it to say, tomatoes were there.

When I met Jeff he started exposing (read: force-feeding) me to many foods. At first the thought of curry or cucumbers terrified me, but that ridiculousness soon passed. Over time, and especially since I found the joy in cooking, I've come to learn that food isn't scary. In fact, it's amazing and delicious.

Nothing makes me happier than strolling through the grocery store or one of Toronto's numerous markets. Especially at harvest time. There's something extremely exciting about stalls full of local fruits and vegetables. It makes you swell with pride for the rich land and skilled hands that work it. You find yourself maniacally filling bags with rutabaga, swiss chard and other things you have no idea what to do with. It's like a culinary smash-and-grab, utter panic, feeling winter at our backs, knowing we'd better damn well enjoy this feast before we're back to food that tastes like truck.

Before driving up to the cottage this weekend, we went to St. Lawrence Market to stock pile fresh meat and produce. On Saturdays the market spills out on Front Street, around the corner and down Jarvis too. Buildings and makeshift tents full of local produce quiver, the smell of manure still pungent in the air. Purple potatoes and thick, amazing pints of berries everywhere.

But there's nothing quite like the local August peach. Fuzzy and sweet, heaped in baskets and little green boxes. My dear friend T.J. made the most delicious-sounding meal a couple of weeks ago, the details of which I can't remember because his dessert took my breath away.

BBQ Roasted Peaches with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

1) Slice a ripe local peach in half and remove the pit.
2) Brush with oil (I used canola; I wouldn't recommend anything with much flavour) and place on the grill for five minutes. Low heat.
3) Turn that beauty over and fill the pit-spot with brown sugar, dust with cinnamon and let it roast a little longer. Another 5 minutes or so. (I bet a dash of fresh minced ginger or a sprinkling of nutmeg would be nice too.)
4) Remove from the heat and mound with your favourite vanilla ice cream.
5) Eat it and remember the moment forever.