Friday, 5 October 2018

Book Review - Terry by Douglas Coupland

Teena has taken part in the annual Terry Fox run for the past two years. This year she volunteered as well as walked for the Liberty Village Terry Fox Run.

Terry Fox is one of the most important Canadian and even the world in the last 40 years. Every Canadian knows what he did. As of 2017, over $750 million dollars has been raised in Terry's name for cancer research. I'm not sure if it is on the Canadian citizenship exam or not but there should be a question on Terry Fox's accomplishments on it.

I just completed reading Terry by Douglas Coupland.

In 1980, Terry Fox was just a young man with a dream. Three years earlier, he had lost a leg to cancer. Some combination of passion, idealism and sheer guts led to the impossible notion that he would run across Canada on one good leg and a prosthesis. His goal was to raise $1 from every Canadian to help find a cure for cancer. Twenty-five years later, the dream remains alive, and Terry's legacy has raised more than $360 million for cancer research.

Terry has been written with the support of the Fox family and the design reflects the style of Douglas Coupland's Souvenir projects, mixing more than 145 superb photographs of a previously unknown collection of family memorabilia with a very moving text about Terry's life and the Marathon of Hope. Printed in full colour, the book brings a profound moment in Canadian history, and the young man who inspired it, freshly to life.

I really enjoyed this book. Most of Terry's story is told through photographs which were saved by his family. The pictures are not only of Terry's run but home shots, pictures of his journals, letters and drawings that supporters sent him. Coupland keeps his descriptions to the minimum using them to accent the photos, rather than telling the story himself. Because of the many many personal photos and the way it was written, I came away with a greater sense of knowing him.

Even during his last Christmas alive, Terry was broke and refused to take any money from the funds he raised during his run to buy presents for his family. He scrimped to buy a present for his mom. Of course, there is a picture of it. Coupland does the same with this book as all royalties from the sale of the book goes to cancer research.

Definitely worth reading.

About Douglas Coupland

Since 1991 Coupland has written thirteen novels published in most languages. He has written and
performed for England’s Royal Shakespeare Company and is a columnist for The Financial Times of London. He is a frequent contributor to The New York Times, e-flux, DIS and Vice.

In 2000 Coupland amplified his visual art production and has recently had two separate museum retrospectives, Everything is Anything is
Anywhere is Everywhere at the Vancouver Art Gallery, The Royal Ontario Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, and Bit Rot at Rotterdam's Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, and Munich's Villa Stücke. In 2015 and 2016 Coupland was artist in residence in the Paris Google Cultural Institute. In May 2018 his exhibition on ecology, Vortex, opened at the Vancouver Aquarium and will be traveling globally throughout 2019-2021. In June 2018 National Portrait, an installation of over 1,000 3D-printed heads and busts, pens at the Ottawa Art Gallery.

Coupland is a member of the Royal Canadian Academy, an Officer of the Order of Canada, a Officer of the Order of British Columbia, a Chevlier de l'Order des Arts et des Lettres and receiver of the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Literary Excellence.

Thursday, 4 October 2018

2nd Attempt at Making a 5 Strand Braided Wrist Band

I am new to braiding leather. Although I feel I have the braiding part down, the attachments I have used to connect it together around my wrist have been coming apart. I believe I have solved this problem. First though, let's go through making a 5 strand braided wrist band.

As I am a Toronto Wolfpack fan (they are a Toronto rugby team playing in the English Rugby league, the worlds first professional Trans-Atlantic team in any sport), I wanted to make a black and white band, which are the team colours, to this Sundays game. It's the most important game of their two year existence. A win puts them into the Superleague, Rugby League's highest division. Teena and I will be there and I'll be wearing the new wristband along with my jersey, scarf and hat.

Time to get to work. I am using black and white suede. I find it easiest to place each strand in order between your fingers one at a time. Make sure they are even. Place your connector over them and crimp from the top, then from each side.

Then I lay it on a white surface as it's easier to see and spread three strands to the left before starting. The diagram is in the picture but after starting you'll realize there is a rhythm to this. The side with the tree strands, take the outside, go over the next strand and then under the next. Now there are three stands on the other side.

Repeat: 3 strand side, outside strand over under. 3 strand side, outside strand over under.

Make it longer than you need. When done, hold the completed strands between your fingers and cut evenly. As in the beginning, place the connector over top and crimp from the top, then each side.

Once this is done, stretch the strap. If you don't, it will naturally stretch while wearing. Cut to the length you want. I cut the side I started with as it is the loosest of the weave.

When I first started, I used split rings on each end, which are split, placed where you want the connection to be, then crimped. I found they eventually pull apart. Now I now use double rings which you thread on. They won't come apart.

I discovered this style of clamp at a beading store, Bling Bling on Queen. I'm unsure what they're called but am sure I'll be heading there to get more. This makes it easy to put on and take of the band.

And here it is, ready to wear with my Wolfpack jersey on Sunday. Oh, the other fans will be so jealous!

Monday, 1 October 2018

Book Review - Chasing the Wind by C.C. Humphreys

I just finished reading Chasing the Wind by C.C. Humphreys

You should never fall in love with a flyer. You should only fall in love with flight. 

That's what Roxy Loewen always thought, until she falls for fellow pilot Jocco Zomack as they run guns into Ethiopia. Jocco may be a godless commie, but his father is a leading art dealer and he's found the original of Bruegel's famous painting, the Fall of Icarus. The trouble is, it's in Spain, a country slipping fast into civil war. The money's better than good--if Roxy can just get the painting to Berlin and back out again before Reichsmarshall Hermann Goring and his Nazi pals get their hands on it . . . 

 But this is 1936, and Hitler's Olympics are in full swing. Not only that, but Goring has teamed up with Roxy's greatest enemy: Sydney Munroe, an American billionaire responsible for the death of her beloved dad seven years before. When the Nazis steal the painting, Roxy and Jocco decide that they are just going to have to steal it back.

I have read a few of C.C. Humphrey's books in the past including all 3 books in the Jack Absolute series and Fire. A couple of more on my on reading list.

The story of Roxy Loewen's is quite the ride. I really enjoyed the writing style and the way the book never went in the direction I figured it would. It was obvious this book was heavily researched by Mr. Humphreys and his Author's Notes at the end  proves this. In fact I enjoyed the Authors Notes as much as I enjoyed the book. 

Chasing the Wind is a wild ride worth reading.

About the Author

Chris (C.C.) Humphreys was born in Toronto, lived till he was seven in Los Angeles, then grew up in the UK. All four grandparents were actors, and since his father was an actor as well, it was inevitable he would follow the bloodline. Chris has performed on stages from London's West End to Hollywood.

A playwright, fight choreographer and novelist, he has written eleven adult novels including 'The French Executioner', runner up for the CWA Steel Dagger for Thrillers; 'The Jack Absolute Trilogy'; 'A Place Called Armageddon'; 'Shakespeare's Rebel' and the international bestseller, 'Vlad - The Last Confession'.

His recent novel 'Plague' won Canada's Arthur Ellis Award for Best Crime Novel in 2015. The sequel, 'Fire' is a thriller set during the Great Fire, published Summer 2016. Both novels spent five weeks in the top ten on 2016's Globe and Mail and Toronto Star Bestseller lists. He is translated into thirteen languages. In 2015 he earned his Masters in Fine Arts (Creative Writing) from the University of British Columbia.

Chris now lives on Salt Spring Island, BC, Canada, with his wife, son and cat, Dickon (who keeps making it into his books!).

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Book Review - American War by Omar El Akkad

I just finished American War by Omar El Akkad.

An audacious and powerful debut novel: a second American Civil War, a devastating plague, and one family caught deep in the middle a story that asks what might happen if America were to turn its most devastating policies and deadly weapons upon itself.

Sarat Chestnut, born in Louisiana, is only six when the Second American Civil War breaks out in 2074. But even she knows that oil is outlawed, that Louisiana is half underwater, and that unmanned drones fill the sky. When her father is killed and her family is forced into Camp Patience for displaced persons, she begins to grow up shaped by her particular time and place. But not everyone at Camp Patience is who they claim to be. 

Eventually Sarat is befriended by a mysterious functionary, under whose influence she is turned into a deadly instrument of war. The decisions that she makes will have tremendous consequences not just for Sarat but for her family and her country, rippling through generations of strangers and kin alike.

American War is a very powerful and well-written book which kept me engaged throughout. It is quite unique in the way the story is told, as the narrators focus is different in each section but with Sarat very much, always the main part of the story.

What is scary is that the story is one that could happen in our future. I surely hope not. It's a book that is definitely worth reading.

About the author:

Omar was born in Cairo, Egypt and grew up in Doha, Qatar until he moved to Canada with his family.

He is an award-winning journalist and author who has travelled around the world to cover many of the most important news stories of the last decade. His reporting includes dispatches from the NATO-led war in Afghanistan, the military trials at Guantànamo Bay, the Arab Spring revolution in Egypt and the Black Lives Matter movement in Ferguson, Missouri.

He is a recipient of Canada’s National Newspaper Award for investigative reporting and the Goff Penny Memorial Prize for Young Canadian Journalists, as well as three National Magazine Award honourable mentions.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

A New Lithop

Today I was walking by Dynasty In front of the store they always have a tray full of cactus and succulents. Today they also had some lithops. A different colour of lithop than I already have. So yes, I came home with one.

Lithops (commonly called „flowering stones“ or „living stones“) are true mimicry plants: their shape, size and color causes them to resemble small stones in their natural surroundings. The plants blend in among the stones as a means of protection. Grazing animals which would otherwise eat them during periods of drought to obtain moisture usually overlook them. Even experts in the field sometimes have difficulty locating plants for study because of this unusual deceptive camouflage.

This one will be joining the two which I already have. These ones have brown tops. They split into new growth earlier this summer. The lithops I have always seen before had only two sections. The one on the left has four.

Here it is in its new home until I can find a better pot to plant it in.

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Making a 5 Strand Braided Wrist Band

Today I became brave and decided to do a 5 strand braided wrist band.  I didn't start out to do a 5 strand braid but as I didn't have a ribbon crimp (to clamp the ends) small enough to do a 3 strand braid for the width of suede I had bought.

I started by putting the 5 strands of suede together and crimping them. This is tricky. I found it doesn't work well to lay them on a surface and slide in the ribbon crimp. It's better to hold them together in your fingers, set the crimp over them and then crimp.

Here is the braiding diagram I used.

In the picture below you can see that the farther along I went, the better I got. The braid is loose at the top and much tighter below. As I had the rhythm, I undid it all and started again.

I found after going through the steps above, the last step leaves 3 strands on the left and 2 on the right. Now you can begin the rhythm. The side with 3 strands, take the outside strand, put it over the next and then under the one after. Now the 3 strands are on the other side. Do the same:

3 side, over under
3 side, over under

I tightened the braid after each over, under movement. Much better.  

I made the wrist band longer than it needed to be and crimped the end. Then I measured the length it needed to be after affixing the clasp.

I tried different ways to clasp it, so it would be easy to put on and take off. The larger lobster clasp I had worked the best.

And here it is!

As it was my first time doing this, it took awhile. Now that I've done it once, it'll be easier the next time. I just have to remember, outside over under, outside over under ...

Sunday, 2 September 2018

Homemade Bumbleberry Pie

Recently we had a bumbleberry pie from Mabel's Bakery on Queen Street W. It was delicious so I decided to make one myself. I found a recipe for one on the Broma Bakery website. As I wanted to make it as low calorie as possible, I used Stevia instead of sugar. Also, I didn't want a huge mess, neither did Teena, so I used frozen pie crusts instead of making my own.

Bumbleberry pie originated on the east coast of Canada. Some recipes use apples and/or rhubarb, although this one does not.

Here are the ingredients:

1 package of frozen deep dish pie crust (two to a pack)
1 1/2 cups frozen strawberries, thawed (you can use fresh but frozen is cheaper!)
1 cup frozen raspberries, thawed
4 cups fresh blueberries
3/4 cup fresh blackberries (I had to use frozen as no fresh ones could be had)
1/3 cup granulated sugar (I used 1/3 cup of Stevia)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg

Let's get cooking!

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Defrost both pie crusts.

Defrost all the berries in the same bowl. I added the fresh blueberries to the mix, hoping for all the flavours to blend.

When they have thawed, mix in the sugar, flour, lemon juice, and salt. After adding each ingredient (I added them in the order listed), stir them in thoroughly before adding the next.

Scoop in fruit mixture with a slotted spoon, but not the juices as it will make the pie soggy.

Place the second pie crust over the first and cut holes or slots in it. I put an egg wash on it to help it brown.

Bake for 1 hour.

Remove from oven and let it cool for at least 45 minutes to allow the juices an mixture to thicken.

Time to enjoy!

The pie turned out a little more runny than I wanted but the crust was not soggy, which is a good thing. Next time I will try to drain the juice better before putting the mixture into the pie shell.

This bumbleberry pie exploded with flavour. It seems to be a little tart but at the same time sweet. No one berry comes through. When I made it, I was afraid the blueberries might take over but that's not the case. Instead the berries come together in one unique flavour ... bumbleberry?

Bumbleberry pie is definitely worth making and Teena said I can make it again anytime.

Hmm. I wonder what bumbleberry tarts would be like?