Saturday, October 31, 2009

Polykin




I just couldn't miss out on Halloween. So here's phase 1 of Halloween fun stuff--a polymer clay Jack-o-Lantern. This is a technique I've been wanting to try out for awhile and I think it was quite successful. The clay was shaped around a styrofoam ball core and the top and features were cut away before baking (straight through to the core). During baking the styrofoam shrinks so you can then pull it out, leaving a hollow sculpture! Cool!

A costume will follow in phase 2 as we are going to hang out with some friends tonight whom I have (possibly) convinced that dressing up is a necessity.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Oh Those Bite Sized Mars Bars!



Halloween has always been one of my favourite annual events. It has everything as parties go--dressing up in costume, crafts in the form of pumpkin carving, and hoards of junk food. I take costumes pretty seriously and there have been some odd ones. My mother actually cut up her bridal veil and made it into a fairy-princess skirt for me one year. And let's get this straight I wasn't just a fairy, or just a princess, I was a Fairy-Princess okay? My 7 year old self will be very upset with anyone who gets it wrong. Alright, so now that we have that straight...there was also a year when I was about 11 when I apparently was having a existential crisis and decided to go out for Halloween as "Existence." Yeah. I know. How does one dress up as Existence, you may ask. And that would be a very good question. According to 11-year-old Andrea Existence involves white jeans, a black shirt, the bridal veil skirt worn on your head, and a sequined mask that covers half your face and has giant black and white feathers sticking out of it. I think I was making some sort of statement about the black and white nature of existing. This would make sense in a pre-teen sort of way. If I were to go out as Existence now I suppose I would wear all grey. Although when all is said and done it may be difficult to beat my brother's Klingon costume, complete with wrinkly forehead headpiece. He may even have been a Klingon the year I was Existence. I don't think that did much for our respective popularity as cool as we thought we were. In any event, soon after the Existence costume I discovered the joy of theatrical makeup. It turns out that I have a knack for it and have dressed up as a dead something or another many times since then. The basic premise is to buy a wacky dress and then make yourself look dead. You can be a dead prom queen, a dead ballerina, a dead school teacher. It doesn't matter. The aim is to produce the most horrific death mask ever using only makeup I have lying around the house. Last year I made M. dead as well and we made a rather striking pair.

And so with all this past Halloween joy in mind it is with great sadness that I find myself without any plans for this Halloween. No parties have cropped up. Our apartment is too small to host a proper costume party there. No pumpkins have been carved and I haven't bought a big bag of those awesome square caramels. This may in fact be the scariest Halloween ever! The first one where I haven't spent three hours making myself into something fiendish or absurd. I've begun contemplating getting a really good costume and going trick-or-treating in my apartment building. I'm guessing no one has any candy, but it might be fun to see the reactions of people opening the door...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

To Breed or Not to Breed

I have recently read a number of articles addressing a debate raging in North America, Europe, and Britain: Should we or should we not have children? Corinne Maier is of the camp that we should not, and the release of her book, No Kid: 40 Reasons Not to Have Children, has prompted controversy and backlash. As a mother of two Maier admits that she has had moments in her life where she deeply regrets having had children. Her 40 reasons to avoid having kids if you haven't already fallen victim to breeding include:

1. Labour is torture
2. You will be a slave to your children
3. Kids are unbiased allies of capitalism
4. Kids signal the end of your youthful dreams

There are 36 more equally forceful, tongue-in-cheek, shocking reasons provided to avoid having children and keep living a life that's actually fun, fulfilling, and involves sleep and sex.

Not surprisingly parents, and those who dream of being parents, are deeply offended by this diatribe. There have been numerous responses suggesting that Maier is a monster, a bad mother, and clearly lacking patience, love, and compassion. In a counter attack parents have posted lists of 40 reasons to have kids. Some of these reasons include:

1. Kids love you unconditionally
2. Kids mean that you get priority boarding on planes
3. Kids help you appreciate the simple things in life
4. Kids give the best hugs

What shocks me about all of this is the atmosphere of hatred, attack, and intolerance. Both sides of the debate align themselves with deeply one-sided views of parenting--each condemning the other for making the wrong choice. Those who choose to remain childfree condemn those with children for putting yet another spoiled, energy guzzling, resource hogging child on the already overpopulated planet. Those with children condemn those without for being selfish, unloving, greedy Narcissists who only care about their cars and their next trip to a trendy overpriced restaurant. Both sides make highly essentialist arguments that deny the fact that there are moments of joy and moments of frustration inherent in BOTH modes of living. Both sides are practising delusional thinking--one assuming that a life with children is devoid of pleasure and the other assuming that the childless life is devoid of real love. The notion that kids will love you unconditionally is just as fallacious as the notion that they will treat you like a maidservant and never appreciate what you've done for them. Furthermore the contention that labour is torture is a matter of perception. You could just as easily view it as a painful but rewarding rite of passage. On the flip side there is a societal notion that labour should be this beautiful, magical process that leaves you in tears of joy. This perception ignores the physical reality of birth which does indeed involve possibly the most horrendous pain a woman will go through in her entire life. What no one seems willing to admit is that both sides have valid arguments and I can't help but cry out "can't we all just get along?"

The fact of the matter is that both sides are oversimplifying. The Maier camp tends to focus on all the comforts, freedoms, and privileges that one will have to give up when you become a parent. They tie this to ethical superiority by playing the environmental card. Children in developed countries are huge resource and energy gluttons and are contributing to the destruction of our planet. The child proponents focus on love, beauty and the belief that children are the future of the world and we have a duty to produce good ones. They claim that they never knew what love and self-sacrifice were until they had children. They claim that they have grown immensely as people and suggest that those who remain childfree are living in a perpetual state of selfish childhood themselves.

And I have to wonder, instead of vilifying each other for our procreative choices why can't we have a balanced conversation that admits that there are indeed pros and cons to BOTH options? One is not morally better than the other. One is not more human than the other. The world will be a better place if we all carefully consider why we are choosing to procreate or remain childfree and create a diverse population of people with different roles to play. If we were all free to make decisions without being exposed to hatred and intolerance for our choices we might acheive a more balanced society in which parents and the childfree appreciate each others' unique contributions to the world and work towards more open and accepting forms of community and family.

Those who remain childfree may indeed have more time and often more money to pursue other goals. This might mean being more deeply involved in the work of politics and industry. It might mean the ability to participate in large scale global projects that involve travel and extraordinary focus on career. It might mean freedom to explore their own talents in ways unavailable to parents taking care of small children. And I can respect those who want to have a life that allows them to make contributions that they couldn't make if they were driving kids to hockey practise and trying to keep their house free of jam hand prints. I also know that the lives of those who do not have children by choice or otherwise are not void of love and courage and a desire to participate fully in the act of living. Having children is not synonymous with selflessness and declining to have them is not evidence of excessive self love. Those without children are valuable in their ability to conceive of different formulations of family. We tend to think of family in the 2 parents + x children formulation, but those who do not fall into this "ideal" pattern have much to teach us about how many unique permutations of family there really are.

Those who choose to have children, particularly women, are often less likely to develop high profile, high paying careers but this doesn't meant that they aren't making a contribution to public life. The job of parenting is invisible and that's really a shame. It deserves to be validated as a Work. If people saw choosing to be a parent in the same light that they saw choosing to be a lawyer or an engineer or a nurse there would probably be a lot more respect for parents everywhere. And my suspicion is that parenting takes just as much time, mental energy, creative thinking, and innovation as any publicly validated career choice. In terms of the environmental argument, parents are indeed impacting the world by putting more consumers on the planet, but they are also showing extraordinary hope for the future by believing that the world can be a place fit for children, and believing that their children can make a positive contribution to life on the planet. Many fight daily for a world that will be fit for the next generation and simultaneously work towards a world that is better for all of us. Parents are not environmentally ignorant people hell bent on destroying the rainforests along with destroying trips to museums for everyone else by towing along their screaming children. They are not all bowing to social norms and having children simply to stave off lonliness in their old age. Many parents are having children because they think that doing so will make the world a better place and will enrich their own lives, helping them to become better people, and thus better citizens of our global community.

There is beauty, fulfillment, and an opportunity to sample hundreds of experiences that life has to offer regardless of the decision made about bringing children into the world. Each choice offers a different perspective on life and having varying perspectives can only enrich global conversation. If we all decide to stop having children human culture will be dead in 100 years. If we all decide to raise families of twelve we will quickly strip the planet of its resources and choke ourselves out of existence. The key in this, as in all things, is balance. In a balanced world we will learn to appreciate the diverse ways that people make a difference. We will find beauty in the many strategies that people develop for living in the world. We will learn from each others' experiences and know that all of us are doing the best we can to live and love and make the best of the all to short lives that we have been given.

I respect Maier for daring to admit that being a mother isn't all rainbows and puppies. And I also applaud those who stood up to her to defend the positive experiences in parenting. And while I don't believe that there is a valid "Should" attached to the question of children I think there is a "Should" attached to the question of ongoing dialogue. We should keep talking about these big issues--parenting, the environment, how to live together on this increasingly taxed planet, how to achieve fulfilling and socially aware lives, how to love amidst the chaos.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Amaranth Road hits the Web

M. and I have been making an attempt to get some publicity for our album, Love-Lies-Bleeding. M. had the brilliant idea of advertising the song "My Celiac" on a Celiac discussion forum. Marissa Carter, a freelance writer who does a lot of gluten free product reviews, noticed our album and decided to feature us in three articles in online news magazines. Links are below! And thanks to Marissa for helping us to share our music project. The first link is a discussion of "My Celiac" and the second two are interviews with M. and I.




Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Errata

A trip to the big Cambie liquor store revealed that there is a wine from the Okanagan valley called Ogopogo's Lair. It has a cute picture of a lake and a brief story about the Ogopogo on it. Upon discovering this M. and I quickly snapped up the bottle, brought it home, pencilled an H in front of "Ogopogo" and had the Hogopogo and the Hogopogo's girlfriend over for Thai food. We thought we were extraordinarily witty.

I have discovered that there is a woman living next door to the Hogopogo's girlfriend who thinks that crows are devouring her lawn and so she goes outside every morning with a rake to scrape away the dead grass. Strangely none of the surrounding lawns are damaged. The going theory by those of us who do not feel the compulsion to obsessively rake our lawns in the morning is that the RAKING is destroying the lawn and the crows are a figment of a short-circuiting imagination. I can see how this would happen. As one of my older entries attests to, crows are vicious and argumentative types; just the sort of creature that would get into the cobwebby corners of your mind and make you go mad.

At Thanksgiving dinner on Monday evening, amidst bacon wrapped scallop appetizers and glasses of scotch, M.'s father expounded upon the origins of castor oil, insisting that it came from beaver testicles. Some investigation in the form of the OED revealed that while Castor is indeed the Latin word for beaver, no oil from said beaver's testicles has been used as a panacea for various ills. Castor oil actually comes from a plant. However, oil from beaver glands has been used in perfumes among other things. These glands are not in the beaver's testicles though. Feeling rather enlightened about castor oil and beavers I thought I would share this information with you. You may want to share your new knowledge at your next major family gathering.

I made gluten free, dairy free, egg free cookies for Thanksgiving and some people actually ate them without coercion and claimed that they were good. I take this as evidence that I have magical food powers that allow me to transform dull ingredients into tasty concoctions.

M. has suddenly decided that he wants a ukulele. Sometimes I wonder what I'm getting myself into. I have now listened to dozens of ukulele clips on YouTube (a rare form of torture indeed) and the consensus is that pretty much every ukulele player out there should burn their instrument. M. also thinks that Tiny Tim single-handedly ruined ukulele for the masses. A quick search for Tiny Tim's version of Tip Toe Through the Tulips should be enough to corroborate this theory. M. claims that just because there's no good ukulele music doesn't mean it's not a good instrument. Apparently he thinks that he'll be able to liberate the ukulele from it's low class standing. We went ukulele shopping on Saturday. My conclusion: No one looks cool playing the ukulele.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Operation Banana


I need to have a banana with my lunch. This is not a preference or a whim, but a pressing and highly important need which developed soon after I discovered my host of food allergies. An integral part of my allergy free lunches involves brown rice cakes with almond butter and bananas. I eat these every day and if any single component is missing, the meal is rendered unacceptable. I am beginning to notice that a slight fear of a banana-less existence has emerged in my mind. I've read articles that suggest that bananas are headed for extinction and I shiver in horror at the thought. Almond butter with apples just isn't the same. Ditto for strawberries and pears. Bananas are a fundamental part of my continued sustenance and so it is with great dismay that I occasionally find that I have let my banana supply lapse and my fruit bowl is empty when I go to grab a banana on my way to work. Banana-less mornings result in a complete rearrangement of my schedule so that a banana can be procured, and that is exactly what happened today.

I had been aware of my waning banana situation and had intended to go to the market last night to pick up more. But I got involved in uploading knitting pictures onto Ravelry and working on my lace sweater. In my knitting bliss my mind temporarily shifted away from bananas and I didn't give them another thought until this morning when I skipped over to the microwave to pick up a banana and...GASP...they were gone. It seems that M. had taken the last banana to work the previous day and there were none to be had. A crushing despondency pressed down on me as I wondered how I was to enjoy the three almond butter slathered rice cakes I had prepared the night before without the balancing flavour of thinly sliced banana. The bottom line was that it wouldn't be possible. So I ran through all the possible places I could gain access to a banana at 8 am on my way to work: The market wouldn't be open yet, so that was out. The cafeteria at my work frequently serves bananas with breakfast on Fridays but you can never be guaranteed that they'll be ripe or that there will be any left. I thought about risking it and hoping to get an appropriate banana at the office, but ditched that idea as having an unacceptable failure rate. The student union building almost always has bananas but getting one would mean finding cash and taking the bus instead of cycling so I could pass by the SUB on my way to the office from the bus loop. I solved the cash problem by borrowing a toonie from M. and I traded cycling on what may be one of the last nice days we have this year for the possibility of attaining a banana. Thankfully, the operation was pulled off successfully and I am happy to report that I am now in possession of a banana of near perfect ripeness that only set me back $1.04--a minor price to pay for such an incredible comfort. I must be more vigilant of banana supply in the future as days void of bananas are sad days indeed.


I would also like to direct you to the Church of the Banana website, for all those who truly love and cherish bananas. (God! The internet really has everything).


Friday, October 2, 2009

In Praise of Aphrodite's Organic Cafe

If there's one thing that can throw the allergy afflicted into throes of ecstacy it's good, comforting, delicious food that makes you forget that you're missing out on regular ingredients. To this end Aphrodite's Cafe on 4th is like a tiny piece of heaven. I was recently introduced to their gluten free vegan pies (with soy ice cream!) and I have been utterly and irreversibly impressed. My first slice was strawberry rhubarb, made from local produce. The crust was a lovely golden brown, with a good crispy edge. It's a little more crumbly and a bit more grainy than regular pie crust but my dining partner informed me that my pie was perhaps even TASTIER than hers. I devoured that piece of pie like a starving orphan.

Pie is not even the only thing that Aphrodite's has going for it. The cafe focuses on hearty foods using organic, local ingredients wherever possible with divine combinations of flavours. Their house lentil and leek soup is perfect for a cool Vancouver day and they'll even give you a gluten free english muffin with it instead of bread. Sadly the english muffins contain eggs so I was out of luck on the bread front, but the soup was delicious.

On my return visit to Aphrodite's I had their vegan chili (but I added chicken) and felt that I had perhaps not eaten anything so satisfying in quite a long time. The chili is not particularly spicy, and has a thick consistency like a good stew. It reheated quite well so I has overjoyed to have leftovers. I topped off my meal with peach pie which was equally delicious to the strawberry rhubarb.

Trip three involved tofu and quinoa cabbage rolls with a soy based cream sauce. These were also fantastic and I began to think that there must be a culinary genious working in the kitchen. While much of the menu does not cater to gluten/dairy/egg allergies the restaurant is definitely aware of allergy problems and makes a valiant attempt to accommodate them. The menu items that are allergy free are exceptionally good. The only drawback is that you definitely pay for this deliciousness. A slice of gluten free vegan pie with soy ice cream will set you back $12--but this was oh so worth it for a poor girl who hasn't been able to indulge in pie in a year. The entrees are also a bit pricey but the quality justifies the price to some extent and the portion sizes are ideal.

Just a little plug for a truly fantastic place to eat in Vancouver! Not that they need it. There are frequently lines out the door on the weekends!

http://www.organiccafe.ca/