Sunday, July 31, 2011

RANGO!!!!!

As mentioned in a previous blog, I love really well done animation.  As the techniques to produce this genre have improved, it has begun to garner a larger and larger adult audience - people like myself who want to comedic entertainment and a great belly laugh.  Animation has now reached such a strong technical level that it can walk away from comedy and tackle more serious subjects.  The most recent example was the smash hit Avatar.

Rango was just released on DVD and I am fortunate to have a large screen and good sound system - a must for viewing top animation movies at home.  2 of my 3 adult kids and my husband were all front row and centre to watch it with me and we were not disappointed.  The chameleon - Johnny Depp provided the voice - was a great role.  An unlikely hero, he is a house pet going through an identity crisis who is thrown unexpectedly into the desert town of Dirt where he meets a slew of strange characters. He pretends to be a great gunslinger - Rango -  and ad-libs a story to fit the role, but it's only a role.  It's a standard plot in that he has everyone fooled, then is unmasked and walks away only to courageously return and save the day.


What makes this all work is a combination of factors.  First is the absolutely phenomenal animation.  Several times a character looks right into the camera - yeah, you really think they do it - and you can see every detail of their skin, the textures of their clothing, individual strands of hair, etc.  There is an amazing layer of comedy throughout as well.  The timing of the one-liners and the pacing of the slap stick is bang on.  The movie also does a great job of creating interesting and unique characters that draw you into liking, hating or laughing.  While there were many I liked, 3 in particular that stood out for me were:  Beans - the love interest that catches Rango's eye who unexpectedly blanks out as a defense mechanism; Priscilla - the small child who is tough as nails; and Rattlesnake Jake - a truly frightening evil gunslinger.


Some hilarious anomalies are in the movie, but for whatever reason you don't care.  They just make you laugh.  One was the road runners.  When Rango leads a posse, they obviously are too small to ride horses, so road runners take them charging through the dessert.  Once they go underground to follow a lead and after climbing back up to the surface, they take off on their road runners again.  The only problem?  The birds weren't underground with them.


Another one that cracked my family up was the flying bats.  There is a huge family of moles that chase the posse aerially by riding on bats.  From on high they drop bombs, shoot at them, etc.  When the posse shoots back and the bats lose control, they crash and of course explode on impact just like an airplane.  As crazy as it sounds, this brought a serious round of laughter. No one cared that bats don't explode into fiery balls on impact.  Sorry, but I couldn't find a single frame showing the exploding bats - just this one with the moles flying them.


All-in-all a truly fun night.  We laughed, were astounded by the great animation and just generally enjoyed an evening together. And that's the truth!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Time to Gallivant!

After walking away from all things electronic for 24 hours, I found it was difficult to get inspired to write today.  SOOOOO, I borrowed from my daughter.  She was a guest blogger on A-Word Per Day and found her inspiration in the word "canonical - authorized, recognized, and accepted."  So hitting a few Word-A-Day sites, I came up with GALLIVANT.  It suits my soul, so let the inspiration fly.

I honestly was not a happy child.  I still think the stork left me in the wrong house.  I had terrific parents and great relatives, but struggled to fit into what was an extremely religious environment and being in the public eye.  Every action I took out of line was thrown back in my dad's face.  Anonymity was desirous - one reason I am amused to be the editor of a magazine with a public persona.  I'm really not very good at the public persona part, in fact am horrible with names and faces, but love writing enough to stick it out with what I hope is a measure of grace.

So back to "gallivant."  The best thing I ever did in life was have 3 kids.  Perhaps having 3 in 3-1/2 years was not the best choice, but hey, I was almost 30 when I married.  Definitely a stressed mum in many ways as I tried to handle it all, but the kids were amazing.  They gave me a chance to have a childhood, just at a later age.  We watched every Disney movie or family movie that came out. All of us read the comics for many years until they became too sophisticated.  I created a Slip-N-Slide mega ride by tacking a large sheet of heavy plastic at the bottom of the slide and covering it all with water and soap. WHHHHEEEE!!!  

Imagination was rampant and highly encouraged.  We took dandelion seed balls and reinvented them as star makers.  None were immediate artist so we drew on paper and made crafts while camping.  The best????  Masks made using rolls of gauze infused with dry plaster - the basis of the old style cast.  We lined up all the kids that wanted to participate, greased their faces with Vaseline and then built the masks one wet plaster strip at a time.  After drying overnight they were able to paint them the next day.  My daughter many years later used this technique to make a real looking cast for Halloween and wore it to school, getting everyone sign it.  At the end of the day she pulled it off and laughed.



Exploration was encouraged. Every day when they were young was an alley walk stopping to check out whatever was of interest or to sample the ripening blackberries.  If I got lost driving them it was an adventure. I always encouraged them to jump from that slightly higher spot, to believe in themselves without limits.  I would love to say it was all wonderful, but a horrible problem with bullying slowly sucked the life out their confidence and my spirit as we went along.  My daughter managed to keep her happy, adventurous spirit, but the two boys had a tougher time and tend to be more structured.  I still believe that those early lesson in gallivanting are hiding deep inside.  Hopefully if they chose to have a family, that hidden nature will peek out to welcome their children.



What I miss most as the kids grew up was that care free spirit and I hated the life limits that slowly put boundaries on their imagination.  The definition I like from Merriam-Webster for gallivant is - "to travel, roam, or move about for pleasure."  That's the way I want to move through life.  I want to travel to interesting placing, roam through my day finding new experiences and most of all, move about my life without limits. 


As I close the door on this year's print collectible, my mind turns to the next 12 months and what I want most to focus on is happiness.  Embedded in that one word is so many goals.  It's not about experiencing constant joy, it's about knowing I'm doing exactly what I was meant to do and not worrying about the other small annoyances that come along.  It's about experiencing the good and bad that come along with living the way that feels right without regrets.  It's about enjoying the trip.  Time to let go of the weights we all carry on our backs.  Time to free ourselves to live more responsive to the surprises that enter our lives each day. Life should be a gallivant in all senses of the word.
Today I challenge you to do something unexpected.  And most of all enjoy it!




P.S. - This last picture is here for one reason only.  It brings to mind fairies, The Wizard of Oz and more.  Everytime I look at it I'm inspired.  I don't know who conceived and built these unique tree houses but my kudos to them.  I would love to shake your hand.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Joe's Special, a San Francisco Tradition

I am by definition a really poor sleeper.  I have trouble getting to sleep and napping is elusive, so often I turn the television on to something relaxing to quiet my mind for a short period of time.  The Food Channel sometimes fills this need.  If I need to stay more alert so I can hit the floor running, I usually pick a cooking show.  To just let my mind wander and hopefully doze, I find Dinners, Drive-Ins and Dives or The Best Thing I Ever Ate are good choices.  I can close my eyes and listen, only opening them if something sounds really intriguing.

Saturday I stretched out for a 30 minute rest and The Best Thing I Ever Ate was on.  I really couldn't say what most people shared, but the segment on Joe's Special caught my attention.  I don't know if I had something like this in my 20's in the wee hours of the morning after clubbing or just heard the name somewhere a long time ago and it clicked, but it definitely sparked my interest.  Not only did I find the origins of this dish are steeped in mystery, but the recipes to make it are really varied.  The basics seem to be eggs, hamburger, onion and spinach, but from there it heads many directions. Some have only 1/2 pound of hamburger to 6 eggs, others 2 pounds to 6 eggs.  Some have fresh spinach, some frozen (not the best flavour choice but a good save time option).  The herbs used vary or are not even included and the list goes on.  The only thing everyone does agree on it that this dish was first created in San Francisco and that is still where it is mainly found.


Here are 3 variations on it's origin gleaned from different sites on the internet.

1. "The most credible tale of its origin is that is was invented late one night at San Francisco's New Joe's Restaurant to feed a hungry musician who ordered a spinach omelet but asked the chef if he could add anything to make his eggs more substantial.  The chef said he had some hamburger left over from the dinner hour.  Now all around the Bay area, you will find menus that list the Original Joe's, New Joe's, Baby Joe's and just plain Joe's."

2.  "Theories abound on the origin of Joe’s Special: it was invented to feed hungry miners during the gold rush; it was a late-night concoction favored by jazz musicians after the dance halls closed for the evening in the 1920s; it was a… who knows? Who cares? What we do know is that Joe’s Special is eggs, hamburger, onions and spinach, cooked in a skillet with seasonings and served with a glass of house red. And no fancy stemware, mind you; it has to be a juice glass or a milk glass, filled to the brim with plonk. You won’t want a refill."


3.  "Joe’s Special is a dish invented in San Francisco; it has rarely traveled outside of the Bay Area. Some say it was created as an after-hours meal at a spot called New Joe's, prepared for a group of 1920’s dance-band musicians. Others claim that it was cheap, hearty food enjoyed by the 1850's minors returning to San Francisco’s nefarious Barbary Coast. Still others proclaim that an inventive Italian chef at a place called Original Joe’s (or maybe Little Joe's) created it. Recipes vary, but they all contain the same ingredients: ground meat, chopped onion, spinach, and eggs."


I had all 3 kids coming for a mid-afternoon brunch on Sunday, so this seemed the perfect dish to serve.  It's a great hot dish that is quick to prepare and hearty to eat.  After thinking about the recipe I had seen on TV and pulling 2 recipes off the internet, I decided on the combination below.  My family has a wide range of taste preferences and this seemed to please everyone.  If I was making a smaller version for myself, I would probably zip up the flavour a bit - I can think of several possibilities - but for Sunday, this proved a good basic and hearty dish to plan the meal around.  I served it with a selection of juices, some sliced fruit and 2 types of scones (raisin and cheese).

Joe's Special
6 Servings and about 20-30 min. to prepare

6              Eggs
1 tsp         Salt
1/2 tsp      Basic and Oregano
1/2 tsp      Pepper
Several drop of hot sauce to taste (Louisiana Hot, Tabasco, etc.)
1 T           Olive Oil
1 T           Butter or Margarine
1-1/2 lbs.  Lean or Extra Lean Hamburger (This varies widely - 3/4 lb up to 2 lbs.)
1               Medium to Large Onion, Diced
2 Lg.         Garlic Cloves, minced
1/2 lbs.      Mushrooms
3/4 lbs       Fresh spinach (In a pinch can substitute 10 oz frozen, but the taste will be different)
125 grams Grated Paremsan, Romano or Asiago

Whisk 6 eggs, salt, herbs, pepper and hot sauce until well-blended. Set aside. Put Olive Oil and Butter/Margarine in large frying pan (could use 2 T of Olive Oil instead).  Saute onion and garlic for a few minutes until soft.  Add hamburger and mushrooms and cook until the meat is no longer pink, crumbling with spatula or spoon as it cooks.  Place the fresh spinach on top, turn the heat on low and cover.  Let cook for a few minutes until the spinach starts to wilt.  Take the cover off and stir the spinach into the meat mixture and let it finish wilting for just a minute or two.  Top with the grated cheese.  You have 2 choices here.  You can serve this way once the cheese melts OR you can gently stir in the cheese before serving.  I did the second, but either would work.


In the future I might try changing up the ratio of eggs and hamburger a bit.  If I ever make it for myself though, I might try a few unique variations - chorizo and diced jalapenos (Jose's Special), sweet Italian sausage and roasted red pepper (Luigi's special), you get the idea.  Like all cooking, it's about making it your own, adjusting it to your personal taste preferences. If you want to be a traditionalist, start with the hamburger, eggs, onion, spinach, salt and pepper which seem to be the basic building blocks no matter which recipe you look at.

 More than anything, I encourage you to have a few friends over and enjoy.  It's time to get back to having people in for a bite.  Restaurants are great, but enjoying food and company at home is more relaxing in the long run and a chance to really get to know each other better.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Who Eats 1/2 Cup of Ice Cream?!?!?!?

With "maturity" came a surprise.  My body developed a life of it's own.  Gone are the days I could eat absolutely anything I wanted whenever I wanted to.  Suddenly that svelte body no longer exists and efforts to minimize those changes have not not produced the instant results I crave.  Worst of all is you find yourself in the supermarket starting to read all those food labels religiously.  How many calories?  How much fat?  Sodium?  What weird ingredients are in there?

At some point, while immersed in checking out these labels, I realized one important fact.  The serving size used has absolutely nothing to do with what a normal, average person would eat. I can only assume whoever chooses the portion to evaluate deals with 3 year old children.  I mean, who else would nibble on such a small serving? And no, I'm not a big eater.  In fact I usually end up taking half my food home from restaurants, so If I find it ridiculous, you know there's something wrong.


Let's start with Ice Cream as I found that the biggest surprise.  Lovely and luscious, a small bowl of ice cream can be a welcome treat when your sweet tooth begins to complain.  But did you have any idea how small that has to be?  Would you believe 1/2 cup?  That's right, when you look at the calories on the side of the ice cream container, it's only for 1/2 cup.  Who eats 1/2 cup of ice cream?  Definitely no one I know.  And the calories can range from 100 for a super low fat frozen yogurt to 390 or more for real ice cream.  If you are interested, some are listed at this website - http://www.calorieking.com/calories-in-ice+cream.html.  The biggest surprise for me was the Kirkland Frozen Yogurt at Costco.  They did list a larger serving size - 12 oz - but still a whopping 390 calories.

Campbell's Chunky Soup was another one that surprised me.  The calories in general aren't too bad if that's your meal, but the serving size has nothing to do with reality.  1 cup!  No really, 1 cup!  When's the last time you slowly and lovingly dined on that little for dinner?  I think of a chunky soup as a meal.  Rachel Ray often calls them "Stoups" - half stew, half soup.  What would you even serve that small of a portion in, a coffee cup?  To be honest it really wasn't necessary to do.  When eaten as a meal, the calorie count is not that bad.  It's only a problem if you're having a lot of things with it - sandwich, fruit, dessert, etc. That said, the small portion size here could be related to Sodium.  Canned anything always has a sodium issue.  Here is a link with information on a wide variety of Campbell's soups - http://caloriecount.about.com/campbells-nutrition-m432.


I'm sure you get where I'm going with this.  SO............if you're starting for whatever reason to read those labels, don't be surprised to find baby portions as the rule of thumb, and if the serving size is small when there doesn't seem to be a caloric reason for it - have a look at the fat and sodium. A few of my other favourites include:  cheese (come one - 1 ounce???),  potato chips (1 ounce or 11 chips - I always stop at 1 ounce just like with my cheese, don't you!),  pasta.(WHY pasta has so many calories I have no idea, but the serving size I often find used is 56 grams - 2 ounces.  Best guess is that is about 1/4 cup of dried pasta) and those condiments that find their way onto our sandwiches (It's good to know that we only use things like mayonnaise, ketchup, barbecue sauce and sour cream in 1 or 2 tablespoon portions).


In the end all we can do is laugh.  Life is a balancing act and it should include days of focusing on giving our body the healthy food it needs as well as the exercise it craves and days off to throw the rules away and just enjoy.  So try not to spend all your time in the store looking at labels and remember that in the long run, if you eat the freshest food available and make it from scratch as much as possible, you're definitely headed in the right direction.

Always good to end with a smile!!!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Drew William – Never Conventional

Photo by Wayne Mah
The first time I saw a collection by designer Drew William was at Vancouver Fashion Week. It was F/W '10 and only his second collection. Ethereal models walked the runway in intriguing, minimalistic garments to original music created specifically for this show. Patrick Goski's composition was inspired by Drew's sketches, and his music in turn inspired the designer as he completed this collection. The female models also had antique wooden naval ships anchored in their hair, a nod to his inspiration – the 19th century French Romantic period and paintings of artist Delacroix. I found myself speechless.

There really are two types of fashion designers. One is focused on finding a place in the industry. Their design talents are used to create unique garments that will hopefully become a recognizable brand and SELL. The second is an artist who has chosen fabric as a medium of expression. It is sculpted to create 3-D structures that are given life when showcased on a human body. Drew falls clearly in this second category.  In VFW April 2011 Drew chose to step away from traditional runway and the standard collection. “It's definitely the most conceptual I've ever gone. This season wasn't about creating a wearable collection, it was about creating something closer to couture.”

April '11 VFW show - photos by Peter Jensen
Although held off-site, I was still expecting a fashion show, so was surprised when I entered The Access Gallery. Its walls had been painted with Drew's original artwork. His “collection” consisted of only 2 looks – one male and one female. “I wanted to bring in the biblical reference of Adam & Eve. The most logical way I could do that was to create two looks – one men's, one women's. People also kept asking how many looks I was doing and eventually I felt that people were loosing sight of what was important about my work. I would rather show a single garment that is amazing and exceeds peoples expectations rather than create a 50 look collection that is mediocre or conventional.”

F/W '10
Drew turned our focus from quantity to quality. These 2 looks took as many hours to create as what normally would have been devoted to producing an entire collection. Hand sewing, gold foiled leather appliques and labour intensive beading took hundred of hours. There were also unique laser-cut bracelets and an unbelievable “build-it-yourself” slotted wooden shoe. Drew shared, “The major difference about this collection from my others was the shift to a more couture sentiment. Ultimately, couture is a dying art and no longer relevant to mass market, because it is not affordable. The garments become more like art objects. I choose to present them in a gallery space in amongst my drawings to shift peoples perceptions of design and art and show more of a bridge between the two. How are they alike? How are they different?

S/S '10
The collection was also a merging of the natural world with technology. “It explores man's dual nature as a biological being in a digital world and contemporary notions of creation. Everything that you saw from the drawings, to the laser cut accessories, to the clothes and appliques were all reliant upon that duality.” Creation circled back and forth from intensive hand work to technical treatments. One example with be the appliques. Hand-drawings inspired by historical images were scanned into the computer and redrawn in Illustrator. Leather was foiled by hand, appliques cut by laser and then sewn onto the garments by hand. This theme was repeated throughout in a never-ending cycle.



F/W '09 
What does the future hold? I suspect this artist will to continue to explore new directions. For me, the joy is that his willingness to share this journey means I will be challenged to grow and evolve as well. Drew William brings intelligence and a truly unique vision to the fashion world, and I can't wait to see what he will bring to the table next.

For more information you can visit his website at http://www.drewwilliam.com/.